typewriter - guilty until proven innocent

Police Stops

If innocent, do not plead guilty, even to a reduced charge


This supplements Guilty Until Proven Innocent (never plead guilty) and Until Proven Innocent - the process, and describes police stops.

These are general comments about US criminal process. Other countries of course have different requirements.

This is also not legal advice; it is general commentary on the internet. For legal advice and information outside of the US, please look up local law or speak with a lawyer. If speaking with a lawyer is not an option, locate a civil rights organisation in your jurisdiction such as (in the US) the ACLU

Police stops are a type of arrest, in which the suspect is questioned, either for investigative purposes or for petty criminal offenses such as traffic issues. These are referred to in US jurisprudence as "Terry stops". Two important aspects characterize police stops:

  1. The suspect is not free to leave.
  2. The police typically do not have a search warrant.

This type of arrest is distinguished from general police orders made for public safety, because the focus is on the individual and not movement. If one is stopped in order to permit movement of a functionary, that would not be an arrest. (There are some court cases that do not call police stops an "arrest", but that is a mere matter of semantics and not relevant here.)


When stopped, remember three things:

1. Do not admit to any wrongdoing.
"I always try to obey the law."

2. "I do not consent to any searches" without a warrant
(verbally) If the police have enough probable cause to obtain a warrant, they typically will search without a warrant. If they make threats to obtain consent, they probably would not be able to obtain a warrant. In any case, don't physically resist.

3. "Am I free to leave?"
when confronted with questions that extend beyond the pretext requirements of the stop

I personally recommend adding, 4. "I would like to express a desire to respect the law."
This is derived from the (US) FAA guidelines regarding pilots showing "an attitude of compliance". I never figured out what that means, but a good place to start would be to state, "I would like to express an attitude of compliance."

Remember these three items. The three items are described at

"busted" YouTube video
(45 minute video, but worth watching)
(same thing, in text)
The ACLU website

Please view one of these.

Also, in other words, Do not confess

Other details

There are a number of details, which can be searched on the web.


Impaired driving stops - These are addressed at impaired.html
The basic concept of "don't confess" and "don't consent to searches" has unique applications in impaired driving stops. (There's a reason police use an "HGN First" tactic.)

If you have an invisible disability, state this to the police.
While there are a number of bullys on "the job", most police behaviour is based on training on how to make judgement calls. Letting the police know what to expect helps in these situations.

Do not physically resist.
There's plenty of time to deal with illegal police action later.

Never make any move such as touching a policeman without permission.

Do not argue with the cop.
There is plenty of time for that later, either in the courts, through a lawyer, or even with a visit to the police station.

Expect the police to ask "why"
Unless you can come up with a polite explanation, the best response is just a scripted answer, such as:
I wish to remain silent.
(same answer, regardless of the stage of the encounter)
I need to talk with a lawyer.
(same answer, regardless of the stage of the encounter)
Repeat of the original answer.

Maintain a regimented form of politeness.
It shows the officer that you are not confrontational (in a street sense) and that you are confident enough to stand up for your rights. Do not say "I have rights."

"For privacy" or "I understand, sir." are generally suitable answers.

It is permissible to ask questions after the transaction.
For example, after being issued a traffic ticket, you may wish to ask about court procedures, and even explain that you consider it your duty as a citizen to take every ticket to court, regardless of the outcome.

Plea bargains

Plea bargains are used to avoid the necessity of going to trial. In almost all cases, the plea bargain is agreed to some time after the arrest. If the plea bargain were to be agreed to at the time of arrest, it would probably be invalidated in a court of law. (This applies to North America and Europe. Other countries may permit "summary justice" actions by the police.)

More on plea bargains at notguilty.html and by searching the web for "Senator Larry Craig".

Other pages

back to notguilty.html - Never Plead Guilty
to process.html - "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" (the process)
Impaired driving stops - These are addressed at impaired.html

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First written 6-Oct-07. Last revised 29 Apr 18. ~~ This page copyright 2007,
Stan Protigal - Comments about this site: email me

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