Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bust Cards

For Your Wallet (Thanks ACLU)

Print copies of the ACLU Bust Card (2 to a page), cut on the lines, and give one to everyone you know. Do this now please.

Tagging back on to Sara's great post, You have the right to remain silent, tagging on to my post Give Us Money Now, the ACLU Bust Card says in plain language what you and your kids should actually do when the police stop you. Make sure you read over it with your kids and PRACTICE, actually mock up being stopped.

If you or someone you know is a photographer, make sure they have the Bust Card for Photographers which lays out what is legal to photograph and not, and what the authorities can do about it, e.g.: Can they take away your film? Can they stop you from filming?

Know your rights. Don't be screwed.

Daughter #2 (Chelsea) was stopped last night on a routine traffic stop, her first. It went well. Why? Because all of my kids and I have PRACTICED, over and over and over, over and over and fracking over again, precisely how to handle a traffic stop so the cop is put at ease and is most likely to put them into the "good person" category and not the "scumbag" category.

Next to domestic disturbances, the single most dangerous type of regular call for a cop is the routine traffic stop. Want to avoid getting a ticket? Put the cop at ease before s/he gets to your car. When the lights come on:

Calmly put on your right turn signal. This lets the cop know you see him and are going to obey. Because you didn't slam on your brakes (dangerous) or swerve violently to the left (the wrong side of the road) you've demonstrated you are calm. Now reach up and turn on the overhead light in your car. This lets the cop see into your car indicating you have absolutely nothing to hide. Pull over carefully and smoothly at the first safe place where there is room for both you and the cop. Put your car in park. Roll down both front windows as you do not know which window the officer will approach. Put BOTH HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL IN THE 10 & 2 O'CLOCK POSITION. Don't do anything else. If you had the radio on it should be off. If you had a radar (fool) it should be long hidden without drawing attention to you or it. No talking on the cell phone. No nothing. Just sit there. Wait. The officer may take a while. Whatever. You have absolutely nothing to do in the world except sit there with your hands high on the steering wheel, absolutely positively NOT moving in your well-lit car.

When the officer approaches always call the officer Sir, Ma'am, or Officer. Don't get tricky and try Trooper (State Police), Deputy (Sheriff Department) or Agent (most federal officers.) You'll screw it up. Call them Officer and they'll understand you're doing your best. The first question they're likely ask is, "Do you know why I stopped you?" Answer "NO."

Let's review...

The first question the officer will ask is, "Do you know why I stopped you?" You know damn well why he stopped you. You were a) doing 75 in a 60, b) while running a red light, c) in a school crossing zone, d) with a light out, e) expired tags, f) and almost nailing a nun. Who cares! Answer: "No Officer, I don't." Now smile.

Notice you haven't given or offered your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. Don't volunteer any of these. Your job is simple; keep the conversation on other stuff. The moment the officer takes your paperwork and heads back to the squad car, your chance to avoid a ticket drops big-time.

Don't admit to anything -- they'll write down on their copy what you admitted to and use it against you if you contest the ticket. Which you most likely should. People who contest tickets usually get them at least reduced (costs you less plus less points against your license which means not as much a jump in insurance costs) and often contesting a ticket gets it thrown out completely. It's at least worth a shot. But right now your job is to make the cop like you, to occur as a good person, a nice person, a person perhaps having a bad day who just made a simple mistake, all without ever ever ever admitting to a violation or anything illegal. Because the cop CAN & WILL use that admission against you.

If you're a nurse or a medic, say so. Or a teacher. If you're a woman, don't hesitate to cry or smile, feminism be damned -- unless it's a woman cop. If they want to scold you, never ever talk back to them no matter how much of an ass they are. At the bare minimum, keep your freaking mouth shut. If you can handle it (and they look like they want it), thank them for the lesson and promise to do better. The point is to get out of the ticket. You don't know how many tickets they might still write you for; at any given stop a cop has discretion to write probably three to four violations. Don't give them an excuse to make an example of you.

Thus if you're someone important, shut your damn mouth. Telling the cop you're important guarantees you'll not only get a ticket, you'll get the maximum possible ticket the cop can give you (possibly even a low-level criminal citation), ever "t" crossed, every "i" dotted. The cop will be at your court date, notebook in hand, having carefully written down every stupid thing you said and did. You will be convicted without any reduction. And if you're important enough the cop will have tipped the media off to come watch you make a fool of yourself.

Even if you get a ticket don't lose your cool by the side of the road no matter how unfair it seemed to you. The cop can still jerk you around if you give any reason. Smile, be polite, sign the ticket, pull out carefully and leave. Then get off the road at the first safe exit (a gas station) and write, write, write everything down, no matter how tiny or insignificant. Such a contemporaneous account including anything else you remember in the next few hours to day, has enormous credibility if you choose to contest the ticket or file a complaint.

The best single book written on fighting traffic tickets is Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court and Win (Nolo Press.) If you need to go deeper, Legal Research also from Nolo, and your county law librarian should be able to help you.

What Sara says works. You have rights, not just on the little stuff, but on the big stuff as well. I've said no to cops and federal officers, in interviews, in my car, and at my door. You can too. It's a matter of knowing your rights and of practice, of training yourself to say "No" to improper questions and being willing to stand up for those rights consistently.

"Can I ask you a few questions"
"Do you mind if I come in and look around?"
"Would you open your trunk so I can take a quick look?"

Practice saying "No" repeatedly. This may sound stupid but I'm completely serious: Try saying "No" out loud right now. Ask one of the above questions out loud, then say, "No, you may not." Now do it again, also out loud. Good. Now find a partner, ideally a family member. Have person A ask the question out loud, then person B replies, "No, you may not" out loud. Do this 10 times. Now switch. Feel free to make up your own civil rights questions where the answer is "No." But practice saying "No." Once you've done this 75-100 times, the twitchiness in your body begins to go away and the "No" starts to become natural.

Practice gets a behavior deeply into the body. If you don't physically practice standing up for your rights with your family multiple times out loud (saying "No"), then when the heat is on and a cop is bearing down six inches over you with a gun on their hip and their partner shining a flashlight into your daughter's eyes at 2 am, most likely the cop will win and your family will lose. Truly.

I can't say this enough: As you practice so will you behave when it is real. Make sure your family wins -- practice protecting your rights with your family. And print out copies of the ACLU Bust Card -- actively protecting your rights protects all of our rights.