Due to the recent controversy of drone-use by law enforcement and a classroom presentation by a local police officer, rights that are constitutionally guaranteed to all American citizens have been brought to my attention. Rights, which up until now, as a senior in high school, have been obscured from my knowledge.
As seen with the valiant acts by law enforcement during the recent events in Boston, cops are a necessity of our modern world and it is vital not to scrutinize the police. However, I believe it is also necessary to bring all of our given rights out for the American public to view. While individuals can find these rights out by themselves, the honest truth is the majority of us will never know the full extent of our rights until it is too late, and our false previous thoughts lead to the law enforcement taking advantage of us because we simply are not encouraged to learn these rights.
We’ve all been in that situation where we pass a cop on the road and even if our actions were legal, fear engulfs us. Have we been allowing our society’s misconception about law enforcement’s authority overshadow the truth about their power and our rights?
According to an article written by Jason Weiner, “Intimidation Tactics used by Police,” (nevadacriminaldefense.com) Jason answers a common myth. Police can “deliberately lie” to us. They can and will use this technique “to draw [us] into self-incrimination.” When law enforcement uses this deception technique, they create a false sense of assurance “to the point where you will feel free to give out information making you look guilty.”
I’m not knocking investigators who have solved capital or major crimes through a process of deception, but for the citizens who are forced into self-incrimination who are just going through a daily routine, minding their own business; maintaining innocence.
In another article, written by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Know Your Rights,” (aclu.org) the ACLU places some basic guidelines to follow when stopped in your car or on your feet by the police. The organization states, “You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.” If we wish to not risk self-incrimination or obtain a charge of lying to an official, we do not even have to talk. It is also stated that we “have the right to refuse to consent” to a search of ourselves, cars and homes. The police would not be asking for our permission if they already had reasonable suspicion to conduct a search.
As a true believer in democracy, I believe this information should be more publicly available and possibly even freely taught. If we want to maintain the morals the United States were built upon, it would be ironic to let this mishap continue simply because we failed to notice the legality of our options when interacting with law enforcement. Especially when officers of the law, those who have been deemed to protect and uphold the law and peace have been pressured to “seek out or even manufacture arrests [to meet a quota] to avoid department retaliation” (thenation.com). Perhaps the most surprising realization I made through this research was that there shouldn’t be this gray area, this reading of the fine print. Why should we let an authority figure’s societal power overrule what is written law?
There is a fine line between maintaining respect and maintaining constitutionality.
White River High School Student