I propose the following addendums to Barry Cooper’s advice regarding consent searches in Never Get Busted Again Vol. 1: Traffic Stops. This information is intended to help those who have private items that aren’t well hidden, who are concerned that passengers may have stashed unknown items, or who have nothing to hide and wish to protect their 4th Amendment rights. I urge Barry Cooper to disseminate this information via his email list.
1. Be aware that consenting to a search means that you’re waiving your 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. If anything illegal is found after you’ve consented to a search, there will be very little your attorney can do for you. (Barry might add “so make sure your stash is well hidden!”)
2. If an officer asks to search and you have private items that are not well hidden, always REFUSE consent. If you are searched and arrested after refusing consent, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress (throw out) the evidence in court. Many people don’t realize how often illegally obtained evidence is declared inadmissible due to 4th Amendment challenges from skilled attorneys. If you believe a search would produce evidence against you, refusing consent is your best option.
3. If you’ve got nothing to hide, always refuse the search. This will offer a good low-stakes opportunity to test the professionalism of the police in your area. If you are searched illegally, nothing will be found and it will help police to recognize that innocent people have an interest in their privacy rights too. If you are searched, contact an attorney to discuss possible litigation. Challenging police misconduct is difficult, but essential if progress is to be made.
4. If you find it necessary to refuse a search for the reasons listed above, calmly state the following: “Officer I don’t consent to any searches. Am I free to go?” If the officer responds with threats (“I’ll bring a drug dog”; “I’ll impound your car,” etc.) calmly repeat your request to leave until you receive a response. If the officer says you may leave, depart immediately regardless of anything else he says. If you believe your rights are being violated, don’t tell the officer. Do your best to memorize everything that is said and write it down the first chance you get. This will help your attorney help you.
While I remain opposed to the notion that consenting to a search is ever a good idea, it is notable that Barry Cooper only recommends this in one situation: a traffic stop in which the officer is corrupt and the driver has private items that are well hidden. By disseminating the above information, he can assist his audience with handling those common situations not addressed in the DVD.
I believe he’ll agree with the recommendations above, and I look forward to his response.