Colin McCallin May 30, 2014

  1. Police officers have to read me my rights if they arrest me, or I go free.

This is false, no doubt perpetuated by years and years of cop movies and TV shows like Law and Order that show officers reading Miranda rights to suspects the moment they slap the cuffs on them. Police officers only have to provide a Miranda advisement to a person who is in custody AND being interrogated. Both custody and interrogation have to be present.

2. If I am stopped for speeding, the cop has to show me the radar gun.

Wrong again. I am not sure where this one originated, but I hear it all the time when I represent individuals on traffic cases. An officer has no obligation to show a speeder their radar unit. They usually cite officer safety as the reason and it makes sense; they don’t want the irate citizen they just pulled over who “never had a ticket in her life” out of her car with the officer’s gun and taser in her reach. A speeding violation can later be attacked in court if the radar unit was faulty or not used at all.

3. An undercover officer has to tell me they are a cop if I ask them directly.

So there you are selling weed in a back alley behind the Wal-Mart to a dude you just met in a bar named “John.” He seems “cool.” You ask him if he’s a cop and he says no. Imagine your surprise when you take the cash and instantly find yourself surrounded by blue uniforms with guns pointed at you. I know what you’re thinking: Colin- I asked this guy if he was police and he said no- my case gets thrown out, right? This is definitely not true, and it is amazing how many people believe it. A police officer does not have to tell the truth to anyone they are investigating. In fact, they routinely employ trickery and lies specifically to get criminals to confess, or give up other criminals. Undercover officers are ninja masters at this.

4. I have to talk to the police if they tell me I have to.

Honestly, if most citizens knew the truth about this one, I’d be out of a job. People talk themselves into jail cells each and every day because they are under the mistaken belief that they have to. Police officers are trained to be intimidating, and often say things like, “Look Mr. Criminal, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Make it easy on yourself and tell us what happened.” What the cop is really saying is “Don’t make me have to actually conduct an investigation. Make this easy for me.” The Fifth Amendment says that you never have to talk to the police if you don’t want to, and you never should until you talk to a lawyer.

5. If I am arrested, I have a right to a phone call.

This is pure Hollywood fabricated fiction. When you’re arrested, you’ll be lucky if you get to make any phone calls immediately. They will take your cell phone and other personal belongings and book them into property. Once you are booked and processed, you can make as many phone calls as you want from payphones in the jail. Here’s the tricky part- every jail call is recorded. This isn’t a secret- most jail phones play a recording for both parties to hear that informs them that the call will be monitored. Lawyer tip: when you call your mom on the jail phone to ask her for bail money, don’t tell her where the body is buried.