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Attorney Carilyn Ibsen's Blog

about Criminal Defense in North Carolina and South Carolina


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Your Constitutional Rights- A Must See Video For Everyone

When a criminal defense lawyer speaks to a client about their case, they will probably ask the question:
"what did you tell the police." When I was a  prosecutor, I would often have jurors tell me after trial that they could not have found the person guilty without their statements to the police. For example, some will admit the drugs hidden under the seat in a car belonged to them. Similarly, in a domestic violence case the prosecution will often have an uphill battle if not for the statements to the police that the defendant admitted to hitting their spouse.

Why do people admit so much to police? Some don't realize what their constitutional rights are. Simple Justice wrote an informative blog today about asserting your constitutional rights respectfully to a police officer. It also highlighted a great video that everyone should watch- "10 Rules for Dealing with the Police". Any parent with a child going off to college should have their children watch this. If you go to the Cato Institute, you can watch the video for free. It addresses every situation- being pulled over by police for a traffic stop, police trying to search you, your car, your house, and answers questions about criminal investigations in general. 

I believe some people feel the need to vindicate themselves to police officers. It's like being put back in the principal's office in elementary school. Last Monday I was pulled over by a police officer after leaving the Gaston County Courthouse. The state trooper was a man of few words. He walked up to my window and immediately asked for my license and registration. After he spent time examining my documents (by the way in North Carolina you must sign your car registration card in black ink), he finally told me I cut in front of another vehicle. While I totally disagreed with his version, I found myself engaging in a dialog about the events that occurred. I have practiced criminal law my whole career. I have spoke to hundreds of police officers both on the witness stand, off the witness stand and in social settings. I know my rights. I don't have to say anything. However, even I had trouble keeping my mouth shut. I can't complain about the encounter- the trooper didn't cite me for anything, he told me to be careful, but it reminded me of how upsetting it can be to be accused of anything, especially when you did nothing wrong.

I recommend the video. It's worth your time. It's worth your family's time. 

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