Sep 142008
Authors: Rob Lowrey

Each year I write about my three rules for dealing with the police: be smart, be nice, be quiet. It changes slightly based on lessons learned over the year, but the core message remains the same: Think before you speak, be ultra-polite and say as little as possible. Please share this article with all of your friends.

/ When an officer says “I need you to (do something)” it is often a request, not an order.

o Ask: “Do I have to?”

o You would be surprised how often the answer is actually “No.”

/ If an officer calls or visits asking to talk to you, come see me FIRST.

/ NEVER exchange money in the parking lot of a liquor store

o The police ARE watching.

/ NEVER buy alcohol for a stranger in a liquor store parking lot

o The police ARE watching.

/ NEVER carry any sort of beverage container in your hand in this town after dark.

o The police ARE watching.

/ USE THE RESTROOM. Public Urination can quickly become a Public Indecency or Indecent Exposure charge. Please don’t risk becoming a sex offender. You can hold it.

/ The police have recently adopted a carnival-game approach to Portable Breath Tests:

o “If you guess above your number, I’ll let you go.” DO NOT Play!

/ If you are accused of MIP, and have had NOTHING to drink, ask for a breath test!

o Otherwise, NEVER blow into a Portable Breath Test, especially if you’re driving.

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.

Be Smart

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. No one in the history of mankind has ever won a pissing contest with a uniformed officer of the law.

Remember that anything you say will be used against you. This is no joke; it is very real. Many people make matters worse trying to talk their way out of a situation.

Think. Don’t give the police anything to use against you. Respectfully decline to answer questions. You are much better off saying as little as possible.

Be Nice

Do not lie. If you are polite, things will go much better for you. It really is as simple as it sounds, and important as Mom always says. Don’t argue, don’t react and don’t complain. Save that for Monday when you talk to us.

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].”

Be Quiet

Again, do not lie. People often think they only have two choices: confess or lie. You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

The powerful protection of our right to remain silent has existed for over 200 years, and for good reason.

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.”

The police cannot force you to incriminate yourself. (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 will charge you and report you to the university for discipline. This is a classic example of using what you say against you.)

Don’t be intimidated, keep your cool and follow my three rules: be smart, be nice and be quiet. When you set an intelligent, positive tone for the police contact, and stay 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

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