It has become a hallmark of advice from lawyers: do not give consent to police to search your vehicle or your home. If they had probable cause to search, they don’t need to ask. Politely refuse to give consent. Believing that you “have nothing to hide” is escapist fantasy in today’s world of overlapping and vague laws. Are you certain that the pretty bird feather that your daughter picked up on your walk and left under the back seat isn’t from a common owl or hawk?
Possession of an owl or hawk feather is a federal crime. Did an empty .22 shell slip out of your range bag and under the seat of the car? It’s a crime in D.C. In this case, Chris Johnson, NFL player, has a Florida concealed carry permit. When he was pulled over (DWB?), he thought he had “nothing to hide.” From nfl.com:
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the 29-year-old was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign, per a source close to the player. The police officer asked to search his car. Johnson cooperated, as he had nothing to hide. The police found his licensed and registered firearm under a book bag under his seat instead of locked up in the car.
In a later version of the story, the New York Daily News publishes a different tale. In this version, the police officer says that when he came up to the window of Chris Johnson’s car and looked inside he saw the handle of the pistol between Johnson’s feet. This version is a little more supportable for the “open carry” charge, but Florida has a“brief and open” display exception in their concealed carry law that seems tailor made for such situations.
The “open carry” charge seems quite a stretch, either way. If the officer had to search the vehicle to find the firearm, it was clearly concealed, and Johnson was not violating the law because he has a concealed carry permit. If the officer could only see the firearm by coming up close to the window and looking in, it is quite a stretch to say that he was openly carrying the firearm, under the “brief and open” display exception.
Officers who ask to search your car are trained to make the request casual and seeming off the cuff. Do not expect the officer to ask “do you surrender your 4th amendment rights to protection from unreasonable searches?” in an official tone of voice.
The request is likely to start off low-key and informal. “Do you mind if I have a look in your car?” is a common approach. Intimidation may be used if you make a polite refusal. “If you don’t let me look in your car, I will have to get a warrant, and then you will be in trouble,” may be stated in a more threatening manner.
The answer to all these requests should be the same: no, I do not give consent to search my car. I do not surrender any of my constitutional rights. Am I free to go? It’s even better if you record these interactions with the police. (The ability to record police in the public performance of their duties has been ruled a first amendment right.) That way there will be no “he said/she said” as seems to be developing in the Johnson case.
Johnson is vulnerable because he is subject to extra-judicial punishments from the NFL. The NFL is owned by powerful people who fully endorse the disarmist agenda. His career may be significantly hurt for daring to exercise his second amendment rights.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch