Halloween has come and gone with barely a whimper. It might’ve mellowed out because of all of the advertising sent out to other colleges and universities, or because of the fact that it was UCSB’s “We Need to Be On Our Best Behavior Because Mom and Dad Are Here” Weekend or maybe because all of the out of town visitors just saw the phalanxes of cops and decided to click their ruby red heels and think, “There’s no place like anywhere else, there’s no place like anywhere else.” Regardless of the reason, even with all of the people who were out in the streets this weekend, it was a quiet Halloween overall. It was nice to see the medical tent less used than a blow-dryer at Aunty Em’s farmhouse.
However, for as well as this week has gone, there are always a few bumps along that yellow brick road to the fabled land of I.V. Over the past week, I had several run-ins with people who insisted that they knew their rights and what they should be allowed to do, or not have to do. The problem was that many of these “rights” included things that could have gotten them in worse trouble.
Now before you get all riled up like an evil flying monkey on its fifth cup of java, I have no problem with people asserting their rights. In fact, I encourage it! I have always believed that standing up for one’s rights is what keeps the government (and that includes me as an officer) in check. Without people willing to make sure the limits for government are maintained, we see freedoms slowly eroded away. Next thing you know, the NSA is tapping the Scarecrow’s brain and the Tin Man is mired in a thousand pages of regulations while trying to get his heart fixed. It’s important that you stand up for your rights as a human being and as a citizen, but I want to make sure that you don’t mix up what you want to be true with what the courts have affirmed. So here are some of the misconceptions I heard over the weekend:
“It’s my friend that is being arrested, and I have the right to talk to him and make sure he is okay”.
It’s great that you care about your friend and are watching out for him or her. But do you have the right to walk up and check on your friend when the cops have arrested them? No. That is not the time to walk up to the cops and insist to know what is going on. Best case, you get told to leave. Worst case, you get to check on your friend in the back of a patrol car as you both head to jail. You do not have the right to interfere, but you do have the right to be a witness. Stay back and watch; even video taping is legal. We won’t stop you from doing that. After things have calmed down, you can approach an officer and ask questions. Even if you are upset over what happened, politely ask an officer your questions. Officers are not required to tell you what is going on, but most of us have no problem answering questions if a person is reasonable in their approach.
“I understand why I was stopped, but I have the right to remain silent and don’t have to tell you my name.”
When a student was contacted for a minor violation by an officer, the student believed they did not have to give their name since they had the right to remain silent. The logic was reasonable, but the application of rights was a bit off target. Do you have to talk to an officer who stops you? Generally no, you don’t! If you are being stopped for a violation and the officer is going write you a ticket, you do not have to make any statements about what happened. Not a peep! However, the right to remain silent does not include the right to not identify yourself. If the officer cannot identify you, instead of a ticket, you will be arrested and held in jail until identified (40302 Cal. Vehicle Code, 853.5(a) Cal. Penal Code). The right to remain silent is a protection against self-incrimination of a crime, not the right to remain anonymous. Sorry, Charlie. Or Dave … or Steve … or Dorothy … or Toto…
“If you arrest me for public intoxication (drunk in public), I have the right to an alcohol test!”
Whether you want to call it a right or not is up to you, but with a public intoxication arrest, there is no right to testing. Whether you recognize it as a test or not, the officer is testing you from the moment he or she sees you. First, there’s the walking test: Can you walk without using passing cars or telephone poles for support? Next, there’s the talking test: Can you say something without drooling or slurring the words together to form one word that simultaneously describes what street you are on and establishes an effective dialogue of the various factions that would result in a minimization of conflict in the Middle East? The next test might be whether or not we can establish that your breath is an adequate ignition source for a barbeque grill. There are a lot of different tests we have for determining if a person is intoxicated. Unfortunately, people confuse the drunk driving tests with the public intoxication tests. With public intoxication, there is no testing for the amount of alcohol in your system; any amount of alcohol in your system that affects your ability to care for yourself can result in an arrest.
Again, I do not want to dissuade anyone from standing up for their rights, ever. I just want people to better understand their rights and how they protect you. It’s okay to disagree with me and say I’m wrong, or to go talk to others who are experts and learn from them as well. If I am wrong, I need to know. Pull that curtain aside and reveal me as either the odd little wizard dude … or maybe as just an evil little flying monkey. I can accept that. I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly…
Mark Signa’s Halloween Costume was a sexy police officer and he was very disappointed to see that all 500 of his friends wore the same thing.