Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"I Know my Rights" and Other Things People Yell and Type Loudly

Everyone at some point has seen a movie, or seen in real life (also known as reality TV without the "TV" part) a person scream "I know my rights!"  Its such a common occurrence that it fills a few categories of TV tropes  and in general helps us all laugh at some poor character who obviously does not know his rights.

Some people, in my experience don't either.

Dont get me wrong, there are a great deal of well educated folks out there who know what it is they can and cant do, or rather what the government can or cant do to them, which is really what its all about.  Some of us left legal education behind in high school and maybe have a vague recollection of some of the amendments (ill go out on a limb here and say that a vast majority of readers know their Second Amendment very well).  As for those other amendments, perhaps not so much.  When it comes to interacting with law enforcement, we have a few amendments that are specifically written to protect you (from yourself, sometimes).  Law enforcement represents the government; but any government employee; from mail man to doctor, can technically violate your rights.

The First Amendment is the one everyone is always so proud of; and with good reason since without it we would have no voice to redress the government for their dickish behavior, nor tell others about their dickish behavior.  We might not have Jersey Shore and im pretty sure under the current administration, Ann Coulter would be in jail without the 1st.  Its our right to free speech, so long as that speech does not exceed some limitations we (the government) have placed on it.  You have no right to false statements of facts, Fighting words or threats, child pornography, obscenity or speech that could reasonably endanger the lives of others.  There are hundreds of court decisions alone leading up to most of these exceptions (and not all exceptions are listed).  But for all the 1st does, it doesnt govern the speech or prevent censure of speech between two private parties.  You have no 1st protection on Facebook, Twitter, IG or whatevergunforum.com.  You also do have the right to not speak which is sometimes far more powerful than speaking.
Pictured: The reason for the Third Amendment
Lets skip right to the 4th Amendment since all of you know the 2nd (and maybe even have a 2nd inspired tattoo which I totally support). The Fourth protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures, and requires law enforcement have a warrant in most situations to perform a search.  The Fourth Amendment is where a lot of people make mistakes when interacting with law enforcement.  Since 90% of what cops do is Fourth Amendment related, you may be shocked to learn that they know it pretty damn well.  This doesnt mean that they cant get it wrong (because they do) or they abuse your lack of knowledge (because, sadly, this happens as well) but by and large, the day to day interactions between citizens and cops go by without mention because they went as they should.  Its only the bad examples we seem to hear about because good examples dont make good youtubes videos and have a nice day and be careful pulling back out into traffic.  

Not having a working knowledge of the Fourth Amendment is dangerous, especially since its pretty straightforward.  Cops can only search you or your car or your with Probable Cause, which means if they have it, they don't need to ask your permission.  If they are asking, they dont have it.  In order to search your house or business, they need a warrant.   Now, LE can pat you down (which is not considered a search) if they have reasonable suspicion that you are presently armed AND dangerous and they can visually search whatever is within public view.  Just as with the 1st, their are exceptions; Exigent Circumstances (we love this term), Search Incident to Arrest, Public Safety Exception and Consent (dont do it) are just a few of them.

Let me say that again: consent to nothing not matter how innocent you are.

The Fifth Amendment is where we start getting into trouble and where talking (even though you are innocent) can hem you up.  The Fifth protects you from yourself, literally, mainly in regards to self-incrimination.  You cannot be forced to testify against yourself.  It also has a Due Process Clause which keeps the government from getting grabby on your life, liberty or property.

The Fifth also gives us Miranda (with a sprinkling of the Sixth)

Now we come to some of the most misunderstood rights, which are the Miranda Rights, also known as Miranda Warning and often exactly what that guy is talking about when he screams "I'ah knu mah rites!"  Miranda came about because some cops in Arizona in the 60's decided to play fast and loose with the law.  As it is with most supreme court decisions regarding law enforcement dickish behavior, the court handed down Miranda and its been misrepresented on TV ever since.  An officer does not have to Mirandize you unless you are in police custody AND are being asked questions about whatever it is you are in custody for (custodial interrogation).  So everyone know that one guy who says hes gonna get off because they didnt read him his rights, well if they didnt ask him questions about his crime, hes not and even if they did (without Mirandizing) it wouldnt be a get out of jail free card, it would mean those statements and any evidence (generally) gained from those statements couldnt be used against him.

Most people will never have a reason for needing these protections, but knowing how to use them if you do, or having a good knowledge of how they work will help you better prepare for the possibility and to recognize either dickish LE behavior, or comically incorrect statements on the webs and (even better) in person.  The large majority of cops dont have a personal grudge against citizens (because they are citizens too) but there are bad representatives in every job and they are usually the ones that get the attention.  

As with everything worth knowing, there is plenty to learn.  The best place to learn it is not TV.  Imagine the shock on a Canadian womans face when a Canadian LE friend of mine informed her she didnt have Miranda Rights (but the people on those American TV shows do).  We as a gun community are huge on our Second Amendment knowledge.  So to should we be with the others to best prevent misunderstandings and any violations.  


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