Lawyer X, Hardyville’s favorite outlawyer, had been telling us to “just say no,” if police showed up at our doors without a warrant.
That was good as far as it went, but then the questions poured out:
“What if you get stopped and searched for ‘driving while black’?”
“What if they don’t knock at your door, but just smash it down in the
middle of the night?”
“What if they force you into a search by getting drug dogs to sniff
your car? Drug dogs always scent something — instant probable
“All the cops around here are good guys,” I observed. “And the ones
who write after reading my columns really think and really care. But I
hear horror stories from readers, too. This asset forfeiture business has made the
old fashioned shakedown legal and profitable. The feds are trying to
turn cops into soldiers. The good cops are being squeezed between a rock
and a hard place — and so are we. What should people do to protect
X listened to us a minute, then put up his hand.
“What you don’t do is … this!” X’s hand shot under his jacket and
we glimpsed a little leather and something shiny. Carty, on the other
side of the table, jumped and started to reach behind his back. He
stopped as X pulled out his Palm V.
“You don’t make any sudden moves,” X said, with a sardonic look in
Carty’s direction. “But you do make sure to know the law. I always carry
my favorite cases around with me in case of need and two of my favorites
are Brown vs. Texas
and Delaware vs.
Prouse. Brown says that police couldn’t stop a man walking out of
an alley in a ‘known drug location’ because officers lacked any
reasonable suspicion to believe that appellant was engaged or had
engaged in criminal conduct.’ Prouse says that ‘except in those
situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable
suspicion that … either the vehicle or an occupant is (in) violation
of law, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver … (is)
unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment’
“These cases make fascinating reading, and I urge you to study them.
But in conflicts with the police you have to keep something fixed firmly
in your mind. You are not a cop. Cop tactics involve stopping
cars by shows of force or breaking down doors. Citizen resistance uses
different tactics. The infantry and the cavalry don’t fight the same
“During searches you should just sit there and wait for it to get
over with. Your work of resistance should go on before and after the
search not during it. During the search you should say nothing
significant but you should make it clear that the stop or search are
not voluntary. This has big legal implications.”
“Just sit there and let them stomp your constitutional rights?”
demanded Carty. “Not me.”
“It isn’t fair,” said Dora.
X shrugged. “Cops, like life, are not always fair. If your melanin
production is a tad too high, you will be subject to greater harassment.
If you look like a ‘druggie’ or live in a poor neighborhood, you are
more likely to have your home invaded. Poor, black men are much more
likely to be stopped than rich, white women.
“The big thing is, never voluntarily consent to a search. Never. Why
not? Anything the cops find is admissible against you. If you don’t
consent, they may still search you or your car but you increase the odds
that your lawyer can get the search thrown out.”
“Yeah,” Carty protested, “but what if you say, ‘You can’t search.’
And they do it anyway — then get on the witness stand and swear you
“On cross, ask if the cop knows what the term ‘testilying’ means. You
can always ask (assuming the witness has ‘sworn’ rather than affirmed)
if the witness realizes that a false swearing is a violation of a sacred
oath and he will burn in hell for all eternity if he is lying. (William
Jefferson Blythe Clinton, please note.)
“Court is rough because it’s a show staged by the government. But the
firmer you are, the easier it is to establish that you didn’t consent.
If you cite (by name) the two cases I just mentioned, you can
convincingly argue that you are aware of your rights and would not have
ignored them. You can post notices on Usenet or a listserve that all
searches of your person or property will be involuntary and that you
will never allow a voluntary search.
“One more thing. Cops are filming many of their stops these days so
if you speak up, it may even be on the cop’s tape. And here’s something:
The Future Tech solution is to be uploading (wirelessly) to the nets a
voice or voice and video bitstream of the whole process. You may even be
able to get extra income by selling it (live) to court TV (assuming the
cops haven’t already sold their bitstream of the process).”
“Yeah,” agreed Bob-the-Nerd. “Let’s work on that one. But what do we
do for the next five years?”
“If you are an ordinary, non-political person just going through
life, you are probably safe from all but accidental oppression by the
cops. If you are a resister, you should take steps to ‘harden’ your life
against the police. You may not be able to change your race or gender to
one more acceptable to your government, but you can change other things.
Here are some suggestions. You might consider some of them a restriction
on your personal freedom but if you are a soldier of sorts, I see no
problem with voluntarily choosing to make your fight with the government
- Dress up. (You will appear to be older and richer, hence less of a
- Drive conservatively. If cops are stopping you more than every three
years or so, change your habits to reduce stops. Even casual stops build
paper trails and bring you to the cops’ attention.
- Keep your car in good repair. Check those tail lights.
- Clean the inside of your car regularly. Don’t leave money,
medications, guns, pictures, literature or printouts of e-mail messages
- Learn to play the game of “spot the cop.” Watch for police cars and
(casually) avoid them. Avoid roadblocks if possible. (The Supremes say
- Live in an upscale neighborhood (or at least not a poor
- Don’t drive, or reduce your driving. Cops love their cars and hate
to get out of them. Most of your interactions will involve your
- Get an out-of-state or foreign drivers license. If you are a
“foreigner” (and otherwise look OK) cops will treat you better.
- Don’t tell anyone who’s not sleeping with you where you sleep at
night. (Practice address privacy.)
- Harden your house. Steel doors are legal, so are window bars. If
building new, consider the virtues of poured concrete. Block easy access
to the second story. Keep a cell phone by your bed.”
“But that’s all defensive,” I protested. “Carty’s got it pegged. When
our rights are being violated under color of law, we have every right —
maybe even a duty — to put a stop to it. If all we do is submit, then
go to court later, maybe we’ll do ourselves some good — if we have
money and good luck — but we won’t do any good for freedom. They’ll
just pick better victims next time.”
“So you feel like going out in a blaze of glory, do you?” asked X.
“There’s good news on that front. Even if you choose to fight the
government on its terms rather than yours, the odds are swinging
in your favor. Look at some of the confrontations in recent years. You
may be surprised to learn that juries have acquitted citizens of murder
and attempted murder for shooting (or shooting at) attacking cops. Randy
Weaver and Kevin Harris were acquitted in the Ruby Ridge trial and
released. The 11 surviving Branch Davidians were acquitted of murder and
murder-conspiracy charges in a trial after the Waco holocaust (some were
convicted on weapons and other charges). Patricia Africa was acquitted
of attempted murder after the Philadelphia police burned an entire
square block of townhouses to the ground in an attempt to enforce the
city’s health code against the MOVE house.
“I should say, however, that glorious stands are probably not the
best use of your life. If you have that much courage and dedication,
liberty needs you in the sorts of battles we can win. Battles of
publicity, technology, and market building. Battles where the government
“I don’t know, X,” I said. “An awful lot of people have about had it.
At least the ‘blaze of glory’ people make a difference by bringing
government abuses to light. It’s not what I want. But I understand why
more and more of my friends are feeling that way. I feel that way
“Yeah,” nodded Carty. “And just wait until they start adding mass
gun-grabs to all the rest of this search and seizure crap.”
“Interesting times,” someone observed.
“Interesting times,” we agreed.
If you have further questions, check these sites:
Criminal Justice Links at Florida State University.
Findlaw.com. Research Supreme
Court opinions, find a lawyer, study law, find a discussion group.
For everybody, but especially you besieged California gun owners,
here’s The Lawyer’s Second Amendment Society’s “Just Say, ‘Go Away.’“
The Police Complaint
These folks take reports on, and do video investigations of, bad cops.