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Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights – Marijuana Law

If you are to avoid being exploited, tricked and abused by government agents, it is essential that you know how to exercise and protect your legal rights.  It is true that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from violating your right to remain silent, to consult with an attorney, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement.  It is up to you, however, to avoid waiving these rights. The following information will help you do so effectively.  I originally prepared the following summary for NORML.  That organization continues to publish this information in its “NORML Freedom Card”.  The following information is an updated and expanded version.  I recommend that you print this out and keep it with you so that you can refer to it if and when you are stopped by the police.

What To Do When Confronted by a Police Officer

No one wants to be confronted by law enforcement, especially if he or she has something to hide.  In our modern police state, however, it is inevitable that most of us will come into contact with law enforcement now and then.  There are simply so many police officers that it is simple mathematics that it is only a matter of time before you are subject to governmental intrusion.  This may come in the form of a traffic stop, a tax audit or as part of an investigation of someone you know.  There are many possibilities.  If you are not careful during that contact, you may suddenly find your person and property being searched and seized all because you unwittingly waived the very rights that would have protected you from such intrusion.  .

First of all, if you are confronted by a police officer, remain calm. Be courteous and provide your identification. If you have anything on you or in your house or vehicle that you would rather keep private from the police, politely decline to answer any further questions. The best way to do this is to ask to talk to an attorney before answering further questions. Say something like “I would be glad to answer your questions, but I have been advised by my attorney to never agree to do so without him present.  The officer may try to talk you out of it briefly, but the law commands him to immediately cease any questions once you ask to speak to an attorney.  That is your 6th Amendment right to an attorney and also involves your 5th Amendment right not to incriminate yourself.

Even though you have prevented the officer from questioning you, he may still ask for consent to search you and your property.  Do not agree.  You need to protect your 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.  Do not consent to any search of your person, your property, your residence or your vehicle.

Remember, if the officer fails to honor your rights, remain calm and polite, ask for the officer’s identifying information and ask him or her to note your objection in the report. Never attempt to physically resist an unlawful arrest, search or seizure. If necessary, you may point out the violations to a judge at a later time.  The judge will order that any evidence discovered must be suppressed from evidence at trial.

Invoking Your Constitutional Rights

If you are confronted by law enforcement personnel and want to invoke your constitutional rights fully, (1) either show this paper to the officer(s) or (2) read the following verbatim:

The following is directed to the law enforcement officer currently in my presence and any other law enforcement personnel that may be involved in questioning, searching, arresting or detaining me or my property in connection with the current contact:

I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the rights and privileges afforded to me by the US Constitution, including the following:

  • I invoke and refuse to waive my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Do not ask me any questions.
  • I invoke and refuse to waive my Sixth Amendment right to an attorney of my choice. Do not ask me any questions without my attorney present.
  • I invoke and refuse to waive all privileges and rights pursuant to the case Miranda v. Arizona. Do not ask me any questions or make any comment to me about this decision.
  • I invoke and refuse to waive my Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. I do not consent to any search or seizure of myself, my home, or of any property in my possession. Do not ask me about my ownership interest in any property. I do not consent to this contact with you. If I am not presently under arrest or under investigatory detention, please allow me to leave.
  • Any statement I make or consent I give in response to your questions is made under protest and under duress and in submission to your claim of lawful authority to force me to provide you with information.

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