navigating illegal searches

I have quite a few regrets. One of the big ones, that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here before, is that I didn’t put up more of a fight when three of my friends and I were pulled over on the way to the Jersey shore one summer morning. We weren’t speeding, or doing anything remotely illegal, but we were pulled over. Maybe the cop was playing the odds, thinking that four 17 year old kids probably had beer and/or weed on them, which we didn’t.

He pulled us over, came up to the window, and asked if he could search the car. One of us, I can’t remember who, asked why, and he said that he’d seen “furtive movements” inside the vehicle as we were making our way to the curb. One of us, and I think it was me, said that the only movement was one of us going for the registration and proof of insurance in the glove compartment, which we then promptly handed over.

The cop asked again if he could search the car and one of us asked what our alternatives were. The cop said that he could either search the car, in which case, if he found nothing, we could be back on our way to the beech in five minutes, or we could spend the day waiting to speak with a county judge. We may have debated it for a few seconds before just giving in to the search. And, it still pisses me off today, some 20 years later. Spending the day on the filthy Jersey shore (which, at that time, was constantly awash in syringes and discarded uteruses for some reason) was obviously more important to us than this cop’s abuse of power and violation of our civil rights, and it’s something that I’ve been ashamed of for years.

So, with that as an introduction, I wanted to share a video clip with you that was produced by a former employee of the ACLU, who is now with a group called Flex Your Rights. It concerns what your rights are when you find yourself in the exact same position. As the blurb at Boing Boing (where I found this) says, it’s cheesy, but the info is great.

If only the internet had been around when I was 17.

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6 Comments

  1. Dr Cherry
    Posted June 27, 2006 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had this conversation many times with lawyer friends. Probable cause for a vehicle search can be met if you move at all.

    “furtive” must have come directly out of the textbook.

    I always thought that a good retirement project would be to drive around acting very suspicious, get pulled over alot, and refuse searches. Maybe you’d like to join me.

    I’d like to fill the trunk with thousands of bags with other little bags inside them.

  2. mark
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Be sure to outfit your car with lots of hidden cameras first, Steve.

    And maybe, instead of having you drive, you should hire a young non-white person to sit behind the wheel.

  3. Dr Cherry
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I plan to drive a heavily-stickered VW Westphalia wearing a Dashiki and yellow-tinted glasses.

  4. schutzman
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t recall all the details, but basically, in the 1960’s the Erisians or Discordians in California decorated an empty cargo van with the text “Marijuana Delivery Service”, or something similar, and proceeded to drive around town.

    Police immediately and repeatedly pulled them over, searched everything, and were forced to let them go. This continued for a while, got into the newspapers, the police realized what fools they looked like, and issued formal orders that under no circumstances should this van be pulled over and searched.

    At that point, of course, the Erisians began using it to transport Marijuana.

  5. mark
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Brett, this is compleely unrelated, but I very much liked your most recent self-portrait. I’d love to see it on a dust jacket some day.

    http://maproomsystems.org/memoranda/?p=481

  6. schutzman
    Posted June 30, 2006 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Mark. I’d been thinking something more along the lines of “Post Office Bulletin Board”, but it’s the thought that counts.

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