Uncategorized Blawg Post

3 laws to know before Coachella

Law mosaic image

There are three laws every festival-goer should understand.

1. A police officer can and should lie to you if you ask whether or not (s)he’s a cop.

I was once accompanied by NYC police officers into Chinatown while I was doing a little investigative journalism on the counterfeit world. Possibly more on that later. After being walked through a 3-foot hidden door that opened up to a maze of fire code violations, I was led down a hallway with one friend but suddenly doors shut at the presence of our other companion: an officer who has some kind of je ne sais quois that yells “I’m NYPD.” One of the sellers approached and asked something along the lines of “Are you a cop or work for police? If so, you have to tell me.” This officer was not undercover or even in a law enforcement capacity and responded “no.” After this we proceeded with no further questioning. The officer lied, without being undercover, and that lie was fine. Understanding that police officers can lie to you is generally useful information.

It is a widespread misconception that an officer has to respond in the affirmative if (s)he is asked whether or not (s)he is on the job.

2. A police officer does not need to read you your rights to legally arrest you.

Miranda rights are basically a warning police officers must give you before they interrogate you. Police officers my arrest you without reciting your rights so long as they do so before proceeding to question you. It is simply a misconception that if you are arrested without Miranda warnings given anything you blurt out will be inadmissible in court.

So, know that you are about to be interrogated if you are on the other end of “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

3. A police officer does not need a warrant to search your car.

The automobile exception to a search warrant allows the normal requirement for a search warrant to be overlooked under certain circumstances. Police officers only need “probable cause” to search a car. Given that cars are in a public space and can easily be moved to destroy evidence, the Supreme Court has ruled that automobiles do not carry the “reasonable expectation of privacy” that would require a search warrant.

Probable cause could be drugs in plain view or the smell of marijuana escaping from your window. Officers can also have a drug sniffing canine go around your car provided that they do not detain you too long.

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