Sunday, October 7, 2012
Life Imitating Art ...
Last week, I was watching The Good Wife. I was acutely aware of how the show makes me nervous, especially that episode. The lawyer's kid got pulled over for no real reason, and the police searched the car. Things were complicated by the fact the kids' dad was the State's attorney. Or maybe that could make it better. I realized it made me nervous because the writers were intentionally creating situations that wouldn't really happen in normal life. It was for effect.
Two days later, my daughter came home from hanging out with friends and told me she was pulled over by police for no real reason and her car was searched. Things were complicated by the fact that her dad used to be a police officer in the county. Or maybe that should have made things better. It made me nervous because what made me nervous in the show happened to my daughter. Luckily she didn't get arrested, and they didn't find any drugs - because she doesn't do drugs, and they didn't have any reason to suspect that except for the fact she got lost. This did happen in real life and didn't have a good effect on me.
My husband (my daughter's stepdad) urged me this evening to urge my daughter to know what her rights are - that she should have handled that differently.
I disagreed - what I want her to gain from the experience is she should be careful who she's friends with and who she allows to get in the car. People with pot in their pockets aren't necessarily the most attentive people - and stuff can fall out of a pocket. Just sayin'.
But after I thought about it, I searched the internet to see if there were other people profiled like that in our area. I found nothing about police profiling or an individual's rights on the local police web sites (imagine that), but I found a great article on the ACLU's web site about what to do if the police stop you and ask to search your car. It's geared toward immigrants in particular that are being profiled, but it seems to hold true for all of us.
I poked around the site some more and found it to be incredibly helpful and enlightening. I'm kind of in love with their site and want to join and send them money. I want a membership card or maybe a sticker for the back of my car.
I'm no lawyer, but the bottom line that I got from the article is you have the right to remain silent even if they don't tell you that - even if you aren't under arrest. Teens have the right to call their parents and/or a lawyer. Everyone has the right to say no to the search. But if the police say they are going to search anyway, you just need to say they don't have your consent so you can let your lawyer fight it later. The article also stressed that the person being searched or questioned should remain polite and calm.
I mentioned it to my daughter - she said she didn't want to argue with the police, which was my initial argument with my husband - I don't want her to argue with them either. But no one's asking her to argue - we're asking her to say, "No, sir, and I'd like to call my mother," when an officer asks to search her car for no valid reason.