Many times, I’ve watched prosecutors play confessions to crimes in courts, where the suspect starts talking after police tell them, “You have the right to remain silent.”
Police have told me the act of reading people their rights is actually a way to engage them and get them talking. Officers talk about how surprised they are when people allow them to search their cars at traffic stops. “Did they think I wasn’t going to find the brick of pot underneath their seat?” one said.
Now, most officers I know don’t set out to overstep their authority. They’re trying to do their jobs and catch outlaws.
But even law abiding citizens should know their rights under the U.S. Constitution. A group called Flex Your Rights has produced this video to help people understand those rights before they encounter police (via Underdog Blog):
I asked some defense attorneys to watch the video and give it their review.
Rebecca Woodman of Topeka, who argues appeals for public defenders’ offices around the state, said that the police encounters dramatized in the video are “unfortunately all too common, even though they each far exceed a police officer’s lawful authority under the Fourth Amendment.”
“It’s important for citizens to know their constitutional rights and how to exercise them,” Woodman said, “so that the right to privacy is protected, not only for themselves but for all citizens.”
Kurt Kerns of Wichita also found the video valuable.
“The bottom line is this: our rights are just like our friends and loved ones,” Kerns said. “If we ignore them, they’ll go away.”