Albert Einstein once said, “if A equals success, then the formula is A = X + Y + Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keeping your mouth shut.” Unfortunately, some police officers in town say they will punish students who exercise their right to remain silent. Common threats include frivolous, unnecessary arrest or additional charges if you remain silent.
I know that police officers can be intimidating, but please remember, you are the citizen with the Constitutional Rights.
Threats to make things worse if you exercise your rights are often empty if not downright illegal. Most times, if officers were going to legitimately arrest you, they would have done it already. Even when they do follow through on these abusive threats, you’re still better off in the long run keeping your mouth shut.
Twelve years ago, I came up with my three simple rules for police contacts: Be Smart, Be Nice and Be Quiet. Please share them with all of your friends:
Do Not Lie. Think before you do or say anything. If you give an officer attitude, they will respond with more. If you argue or debate with an officer, they will win. Don’t invite them to lose their temper, because they will accept. Remember these words: No one in the history of mankind has ever won a pissing contest with a uniformed officer of the law.
Also remember that anything you say will be used against you. This is no joke. It’s not just something you hear on TV; it is very real. Many people have made matters worse trying to explain away actions or talk their way out of a situation. Think. Don’t give the police anything to use against you. Respectfully decline to answer questions. Realize you are much better off saying as little as possible.
Do Not Lie. It really is simple as it sounds, and important as Mom always says. If you are polite, things will go much better for you. Don’t argue, don’t react and don’t complain. Save that for Monday when you talk to us. (182 Lory).
Politely say, “I’m sorry officer, but [I am going to remain silent], [I do not consent to any searches], [I choose not to do (VOLUNTARY) roadside sobriety tests] and [I will not blow into the (VOLUNTARY) portable breath test].”
If you are accused of MIP, and have had nothing to drink, ask for a breath test. Otherwise, never blow into a “portable breath test” or “preliminary breath test” (Small, portable testers commonly known as a “PBT”).
PBT’s are VOLUNTARY. If an officer holds one up at a party, saying: “Blow in this!” Don’t do it; it is not required. (If you are arrested for DUI, you must choose a breath test at the station or a blood test (or lose your license), but a driver should never blow into a PBT! Ever.)
Do Not Lie. People often think they only have two choices: confess or lie. You have the right to remain silent. Use it. This is often your most powerful protection. Our right to remain silent has existed for over 200 years, and for good reason.
The police cannot force you to incriminate yourself. They cannot force you to admit you have been doing something wrong. (If you are threatened with arrest if you choose to remain silent, I want to hear about it.)
The police can demand identification, but cannot force you to identify yourself as a CSU student. (If you do, the police may not only charge you, they will report you to the university for discipline proceedings. This is a classic example of using what you say against you.)
The less you say the better. Trust me on that. People get themselves into more trouble by talking to the police than you could ever imagine. Once the words come out of your mouth, you cannot un-ring the bell. Don’t be intimidated, keep your cool, and follow my three rules: Be Smart, Be Nice and Be Quiet. This helps insure that contacts with the police will go better, both short and long term.
By setting an intelligent, positive tone for the police contact, and being quiet, you won’t have to worry nearly as much later on. If you are charged with a crime, come immediately to Student Legal Services: 182 Lory Student Center. Bring your CSU ID to make an appointment. If you were Smart, Nice and Quiet, we will have a much better take on your case every time.
Rob Lowrey is a staff attorney for Student Legal Services. SLS’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org