This simple sentence: “I do not consent to this search,” is one of the most important tools you have to protect your constitutional rights during a police stop. What else can you do? The ACLU's New York state affiliate has produced a phone app & palm card titled “What do to if you're stopped by police.”
From the intro page:
We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities — especially in our interactions with the police.
This card tells you what to do if you are stopped, arrested, or injured in your encounter with the police, and how to file a complaint.
Suprisingly, many people don't know their rights. Maybe they were absent that week in Civics class or just haven't watched enough Law & Order. But we live in a time when our privacy rights are being chipped away: it's important for people to push back and claim their Constitutional rights.
Refusing a warrantless search may irritate the officer, but does not give him/her probable cause to conduct a search. It's not up to you to prove you have nothing to hide; it's up to law enforcement to convince a judge that there's a reason to conduct a search.
Sure, you may have nothing to hide, so what's the big deal if you let police search your car, pockets, or home without a warrant? Here's the answer:
- It's your constitutional right.
- Refusing a search protects you if you end up in court.
- Saying “no” can prevent a search altogether.
- Searches can waste your time and damage your property.
- You never know what they'll find.
The police officers I know personally are great people who took a hard, dangerous job. They'll never, ever get rich on a public employee's salary, but that was never the goal. Unfortunately, there are some bad apples in the bunch, and you never know when you'll meet up with one of them.
Whatever you do when dealing with police officer, always stay calm. There's plenty of time later to file a complaint. Know your rights. Be prepared. Stay safe.