What You Should Be Able to Say to a Cop

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One word – no.

It used to be a word that carried a lot of weight. Not just morally but also – and critically – legally. You could say no to cop and, provided he didn’t have a warrant issued by a judge – or at the least, some specific probable cause that would stand up before a judge – he had no choice, legally speaking, but to back off. If he did not – if he say forced his way into your house or forced you out of your car or forced you onto the ground – the odds were pretty good that down the road, any charges leveled against you would be dropped ( “fruit of the poisoned tree” doctrine) and – even more significantly – the cop himself would likely find himself looking for a new line of work. Or at least chastened.

But that was the past, alas.

One of the greatest freedoms we have lost since 911 is that we have been deprived of the power of no. Instead, we are told we must immediately Submit and Obey – and failure to do so immediately now constitutes “probable cause” in our Brave New World. If one says no to a cop demanding ID, one can expect to be put in cuffs and thrown face down over the hood of a cruiser. If one declines to open the door to one’s home for a cop, it is entirely likely that the cop will force his way in and if you do so much as put your hands up to ward off the blows, you will very likely find yourself charged with “resisting” and possibly “assault upon a police officer.”

Much worse, the law will back him up, not you.

Even if the door kick-down at 2 in the morning and subsequent ransacking of your home are later declared an “administrative mistake” (they meant to bash in the door of the house across the street, not yours) but you, in your fear and absolute innocence took steps to defend yourself/your family and in the process shot a “law enforcer,” guess who’ll be up on murder or attempted murder charges?

This has actually happened already. For instance, there’s the case of Ryan Frederick of Chesapeake, Va.. He was charged with first degree murder for shooting a cop who broke into his home on a trumped-up drug warrant. Frederick, 28 at the time, had no criminal record and the warrant was the result of a supposed police informant who claimed that Frederick was growing pot plants. In fact, Frederick – an avid gardener – was growing a Japanese Maple. On the basis of this, a no-knock warrant was executed – just afew days after Frederick’s home had been invaded by burglars. When Frederick’s dogs began barking and he heard someone breaking through his front door, he grabbed his gun and – quite reasonably- fired at the intruder. The intruder happened to be a cop and now Frederick awaits life in prison – or a needle in the arm. (See here for more.)

He was not able to say no.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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