We here at RideLust tend to avoid posting anything that could possibly be misconstrued as legal advice, but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We’ve posted pieces on dealing with traffic stops in the past, ranging from Vito Rispo’s advice on dealing with police (which is legally correct, but guaranteed to jam you up) to my own piece on avoiding a traffic ticket (which actually drew praise from a CHP officer). I found the following video (audio, mostly) on YouTube, and I just couldn’t pass it up. Even if what the driver did was legally correct, who wants the hassle of a roadside arrest, a weapons charge and the ensuing legal battle? I certainly don’t, and am willing to comply with any lawful order given by a police officer. I recommend you do the same, so here’s (my opinion) of what this driver should have done differently:
Obey a lawful order, unless you want to be charged with obstruction.
There is case law that allows police to operate DUI checkpoints, so don’t think that they constitute “illegal search and seizure”. Roadside checkpoints are generally nothing more than a review of documents and a few minutes of conversation, but give police reason to suspect you’ve been drinking and it’s bound to end differently. Whether or not the police smelled alcohol through a partially open car window is up for debate, but I certainly heard the driver slur his speech. Refusal to comply with a lawful order and slurred speech are probably grounds for a sobriety check, or forfeiture of your drivers license, in most states.
Know your state’s gun laws.
In Nevada, it’s not specifically illegal to carry a pistol, as long as it’s in plain sight (known as ‘open carry’). Judging from the reaction of the police in the video, neither the gun nor the spare magazine were visible, which IS in violation of state law unless the driver had a concealed carry permit. Nevada doesn’t require you to inform an officer that you’re carrying, but (in my opinion) this is always a good idea. A simple, “Officer, I’m carrying a loaded firearm, holstered on my right hip” would have avoided an awful lot of drama, a possible weapons charge and a potentially violent take down. If you remember nothing else, remember this: you are a threat to police until proven otherwise.
Don’t bust balls.
Yes, there are corrupt cops in the world, just as there are corrupt bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. It’s quite possible that the driver had a run-in with the police prior to this episode, but it’s not damn likely that the crowd of officers involved in this scene were all corrupt. What’s the point of telling the cop you can’t roll your window down because you complied with his request to turn the car off? You’ve never heard of the “On” position of the ignition switch, which powers the windows without starting the car? At the end of the day, cops have a job to do, just like you and I. Making their life more difficult by playing amateur ACLU lawyer isn’t going to benefit you.
Don’t look for trouble, because you’re likely to find it.
Think that corrupt cops are the only problem in the world? Think that one man armed with righteous indignation and a tape recorder is going to fix that? Realize that this traffic stop could have ended very badly for you or an officer: as soon as a cop yelled “gun”, all bets were off. Had you made a sudden movement, you could have been just another perp who made the mistake of attempting to draw a weapon on police. That you were innocent is irrelevant; Amadou Diallo was innocent as well, but he got shot 19 times by police who mistook his cell phone for a gun. Mistakes happen, and some times they have deadly consequences.
What you do in a traffic stop determines the outcome. If exercising your constitutional rights is more important than driving away with minimal inconvenience, by all means do so. Just don’t complain that all cops are corrupt and out to get you should you choose to behave like this.