When civilians encounter police, the best thing they can do is remain silent, said Jason Savela, a Boulder civil defense attorney.
“By saying nothing you are saying no to questioning,” he said. “If you have the opportunity to say no, say no.”
The CSU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy on Thursday night in Clark C142 sponsored a screening of “Busted: A Citizen’s Guide to Police Encounters.”
American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group Flex Your Rights created the 45-minute video to provide tips about the rights of citizens when dealing with police. It portrayed several situations where officers bullied citizens into incriminating themselves. The situations ranged from a traffic violation to a house party gone awry. Each skit showed the right way, and the wrong way, to handle ill-tempered police officers.
After the movie, Savela and Rob Lowrey, legal counsel with Student Legal Services, answered questions and gave advice about civilian encounters with the police.
Savela elaborated on the situations addressed by the movie and tackled unconventional issues such as riding a bike while intoxicated.
“A BUI is essentially a DUI without the license trouble,” he said.
One issue concerning college students in attendance was how to handle an uninvited officer or officers at a house party. Lowrey said it is important to be polite but be adamant that it’s clear the police presence isn’t wanted.
“You aren’t required to open the door anymore than you are to answer the phone,” he said. “Make them get a warrant.”
When dealing with a potential DUI, Savela recommended avoiding roadside sobriety tests at all costs, which he said were biased.
“Refuse,” he said. “The roadsides are voluntary. They are set up for you to fail. By refusing to take the sobriety test you take away half of their evidence that they will use against you.”
Wendy McBride, a senior rangeland ecology major, was one of about 30 students and community members in attendance.
“I thought it was very interesting and informative,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot about what they were talking about so it was good to hear that stuff. I haven’t had too many run-ins with the police but I think that it is good to know how to protect myself.”
Lowrey, meanwhile, stressed the central theme of the night: when confronted by cops, keep your trap shut.
“No one in the history of man has won a pissing contest with an officer,” he said. “Your best bet is to say nothing. If they have to jump through 50 hoops, make them.”
Staff writer Kevin Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.