T Nation

Knowing Your Rights


So I hear a lot of different stuff about your rights with regards to dealing with the police. A lot of it is contradictory. I have some questions, mostly about searches, that can hopefully be cleared up here. This can double as a "useful legal tips" thread.

What exactly is grounds to be searched? Does it make a difference if I'm out in public or if it's for a traffic stop?

Is searching me and my bags any different? Meaning, does a law exists that says an officer can't search my bag in some circumstance?

When am I allowed to say "I do not consent to this search?"

Let's say I get pulled over for speeding 8 over. There's a closed backpack in my passenger seat. When does the officer have a right to search it, despite me saying I don't consent. Do I get any other consequences if I say I don't consent?

I've heard police can't searched locked containers. Glove boxes? What if I put a suitcase lock on my backpack?
I'll probably think of more later.

Thank you,





If there is probably cause, you are screwed.


This is coincidental...I just ordered Boston's book a few days ago.


cops can do whatever the fuck they want. Be lucky that you have never gotten pulled over in PG county, MD - they will beat your ass for fun.

I have gotten beaten on three separate occasions by different cops over a ten year period. I just don't go there anymore.

NWA had it right.....


i had this happen in college: we got pulled over i had beer in the trunk the officer asked to search my trunk i said no cause i had beer in there fucking pricks started pushing me and my buddies against the car and talking major shit they called for a canine unit and when the dog got there it "signaled" drugs in the trunk so they were allowed to search it without consent because of what maximusb said probable cause you cant win i dont know what you are carrying in your bag but if the dogs hit on it they can open it and i believe they train them to hit even if the dog doesn't smell anything thats how it works here in good ole Mi.

p.s. i got a real problem with authority lol


If you're at all serious, then this is an awfully negative reflection of you independent of any cop(s) and what they did.


If there's anything questionable in it, that backpack always goes in the trunk.

From what I understand, a locked glove compartment is generally ok too but the locked trunk is completely inaccessible to you while driving, so unless you appear intoxicated or are just clueless about how to interact in that setting, you aren't giving them probable cause to investigate further and so they can't get in there.


How the fuck is it a negative reflection on me when the police abuse MY civil rights? I am not the type to start trouble with the cops. I had my license and registration ready when the got to the window... each time.


As in every job there are the bad apples.

This is especially noticable in LE as if they chose to fuck you over it could completely ruin your life.


So far so good, and yet this somehow led to a beating on not one, not two, but three separate occasions?


Maybe you slept with the cop's gf or wife.


If you are ever under investigation DO NOT SAY ANYTHING EVER, UNLESS YOU HAVE A LAWYER PRESENT. Do not answer any questions or say any words as under no circumstance can it help your case, even in the best case scenario where you are legitimately innocent you will only purge yourself into admitting of maybe another crime you committed. Never will a cop in trial bring up the fact that you stated your innocence over and over again, they will however bring up the parts that help their case and since I believe (not sure) that all interrogations are recorded, it is best if you kept your mouth shut. Also if pulled over and you are going to lie and say you were only doing 5 over, remember the cop can still ticket you even if you were doing 1 over, so again there is no point in fibbing when the cop asks you how fast you were driving.


Probable cause is the major determining factor in whether or not you can be legally searched. If the police have probable cause, they can search you. Of course, they're going to stretch the boundaries of what probable cause is and unless it's an egregious violation, the police are going to search you legally. If you have a backpack sitting on your seat and they ask to see what's in it, you can tell them no, but if they wanted to, they could legally detain you while a K-9 comes over. If there's anything that the dog will smell in the bag, you're fucked because the dog will alert the officer and now he has entirely legal probable cause. You not wanting to reveal what's in your bag does not give them probable cause, but as soon as you refuse, they know that you're either hiding something or trying to upstage them. Either way, they'll find probable cause for searching you.

If you commit any crime whatsoever, you automatically give the police probable cause for searching you. If you are being detained as a suspect in any sort of crime, whether it's petty vandalism or attempted murder, they can search you. If they are called to your house because of a noise violation, they can enter the house if any sort of crime is in progress there, even if it's something as mundane as minor in possession of alcohol.

The bottom line is that if you commit a crime and are being detained or are under arrest, that gives the police probable cause and you do not have to consent to anything. If you are pulled over and you voluntarily allow them to search your car, you can disallow them from searching it at any time, but they will then know that you are hiding something and they will essentially create a scenario in which they have justifiable probable cause.


Or MAYBE PG county cops are all notorious assholes. I don't hate cops - My cousin is a Baltimore City cop. But I'm sure they have a nice place in hell reserved for PG county cops. I worked in PG county for ten years during the time when it was the worst. They are the worst cops in America by popular opinion. They are a bunch of redneck good ol' boy hillbillies that are in charge of policing a majority african american demographic. They were calling me a "yuppie piece of shit" while they were clubbing me while shining a flashlight in my face so I couldn't see them. Each time. And I was driving a different car with each incident. I wasn't speeding. They pulled me over, beat my ass and left - no ticket, no warning - just left me bleeding on the side of the road. Three times in ten years.

Google "most brutal police county in america" and half of the first page is PG county (Prince Georges County, MD)







really? If that were the case I wouldn't be bitching about it, now would I?

I told you I wasn't doing that anymore. After considering the feedback from some of the members of this forum that I respect (yourself included) it led to me having some conversations with some other men IRL who have mentored me in the past. Long story short - I took a personal inventory and decided that I was out of line with that particular behavior. Thank you for pointing it out. I was wrong. I am not ashamed or afraid to publicly admit I was wrong - I'm all about the evolution. I have taken action to change that particular behavior. Can we move on?


My response about the cops harassing you was meant to be humorous.

Everything Artw said is spot on, he summed it up perfectly.


I think it really comes down to how you present yourself. Who the cop is you're dealing with. I've gotten myself out of tickets, by coming off as courteous as possible, when I could have gotten hundreds in fines and my car impounded.

Hey I've talked to cops, who have told people if they would have just said "No" when asked for a routine search. He would have let them on their way. Yet by asking for a routine search without probable cause, he has found at times lbs of drugs!!! When it could have been avoided very easily.


My understanding in regards to the back pack on the car seat is that they would first ask you to search the bag. You can then say no and they are then unable to search your bag. However they can detain you while calling in a K-9 unit to sniff the bag. If the k-9 signals that there is something illegal in the bag then they can search you without your consent.

I think there is also a certain duration in which you can be detained. For instance i don't think they are legally allowed to detain you for 3 hrs while waiting on a k-9 unit to arrive.


If you serve/d, give them your military ID with your DL.