If a cop tells you to do something, it’s kind of dangerous to refuse to do it

imagesEvery once in awhile, you’ll see an article make the rounds on Facebook that’s all, “Know your rights! Never talk to cops!”

And those articles make a lot of sense…if you’re guilty. If you’re holding drugs, then you should definitely stand on your rights. The cops are not your friends.

But the rhetoric surrounding these articles is always a little condescending towards innocent people who do what the cops tell them and then get screwed (for instance, I once saw a video where a law professor said he’s told his children to never talk to the cops under any circumstances, ever). It’s all like, “Oh, those idiots. If only they knew their rights then they wouldn’t have been coerced into a false confession or framed or whatever.”

The problem is that no one ever looks at the inverse scenario. How many times do people get stopped by the cops? How many times do people do what the cops tell you to do, even when what they’re asking is illegal, and then get released without further problems? And how many times do people stand on your rights and refuse to obey the cops, and then get beaten up or falsely arrested or even killed?

What people don’t understand is that cops often don’t know the law. And even when they do, they often don’t care about the law. When you refuse to obey the cops, they’ll often go ahead and search you or bust in on you anyway. And then, what you’ve done with your refusal is lay the groundwork for getting the case thrown. But getting arrested is terrible. It’s something most people want to avoid. And when you refuse to obey the cops, you increase your chances of getting arrested (even if you decrease your chances of being convicted).

Also, there’s an X factor, which is that our civil rights are being eroded in such a way that who knows what’s legal and what’s illegal anymore? For instance, the border patrol stopped me at a checkpoint in I-10 in New Mexico, miles upon miles from the Mexican border, and asked if he could search my car with drug-sniffing dogs (which are terrible at actually finding drugs, but that’s another story). Now, would it have been legal for me to refuse? I thought that it would be, but on further research, I found that my proximity to the border made it legal for them to search my car. I also found a video (by a white Baptist minister!) who said his windows had been smashed and he’d violently been thrown to the ground after he refused a search at a New Mexico checkpoint.

Now, if I’d had drugs in my car, I’d like to think that I would’ve refused the search, because, in that situation, the potential rewards outweigh the risks. But in most situations? Of course I’m going to cooperate.