Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Victim of an Illegal Police Detention

I enjoy walking in my neighborhood late at night.  It's quiet and dark.  The constellations are beautiful and I often see shooting stars streak across the night sky.  Now and then I'll see a man-made satellite move like a freight train low on the horizon. I'm regularly startled by white-tailed deer snorting deep in the woods. I occasionally see their dark silhouettes cross my path. Coyotes yip and howl and get all the neighborhood dogs in an uproar. 

But last night on my walk I was the victim of an illegal police detention. You see, my late night walks in the neighborhood had created quite a stir. Little did I know the local sheriff's department had a BOLO out on me. A tall suspicious man, dressed in black gloves, dark trousers, camouflaged coat, and dark cap had been regularly seen in the neighborhood . . . late at night. Sometimes he was seen running. Always avoiding oncoming traffic. But you see, my neighbors just didn't get out much. That was my favorite fleece jacket, my most comfortable black jeans, the warmest wool ski cap I've ever owned, and the best pair of cycling gloves on the market. 

So you know I was astonished at about 11:00pm when a sheriff's deputy came screaming down Indian Lakes Blvd. with his emergerncy lights rolling and his spotlight shining directly in my eyes. I was almost home . . . no more than 1/2 a mile from my house. "Sir, can you come with me please?"  Ha!  I knew it was a bad stop. The officer had no "reasonable suspicion" I was involved in any criminal activity. Just a bunch of noisy neighbors who didn't get out much wondering why some strange guy in camouflage and gloves was out walking in the dark each night.

I could have kept walking but I decided to submit to the officer's authority. Even though I knew this was a bad stop, I also knew I'd get patted down if I refused to cooperate. I also didn't want the Benchmade 581 Barrage assisted-opening folder I had in my pocket mistaken for a switchblade. I would have beaten that rap, but not the ride downtown. So I stopped and told the officer who I was.

You see, I know most of the cops in town. When I identified myself the officer immediately asked if I was the "lawyer Gustitis."  "Yes I am," I said. Out on my evening walk, enjoying the stars and the yipping coyotes. He apologized for not recognizing me, seeing how my wool cap was pulled down over my ears and forehead. He explained how the neighbors had been calling in a suspicious person report for weeks, but they'd never been able to catch the guy. I laughed and said, "Yea, that's me." No home invader, no burglar, just little-old-me trying to get some excercise and enjoy the night air.  But I still didn't tell him about my Benchmade, heck, he might have taken it for his own.

The kids got a kick of the story. I told them tonight I'm wearing my full-faced leather ski mask. That should get the neighbors in a stir.  You see, they just don't get out much.  If they did, they'd know it was little-old me out for a bit of excercise. 


Anonymous said...

What would you suggest for a regular citizen to do when confronted by the police?

Miscellaneous Lawyer said...

Replying to Anonymous, it depends on where you are. Generally, it is always best to cooperate with police. If you are detained or arrested without police having a 'reasonable suspicion' or whatever the legislation says in your jurisdiction, it is an illegal arrest.

If you refuse to cooperate, however, you might be arrested for an actual offence, which puts you right back into our office.

@ Defence Perspective: I don't know what the legislation says in your part of the world, but in Australia, a person cannot be detained or arrested without a whole RAFT of provisions, such as reading rights, formal charging, etc. We had a client who was illegally arrested, and a year down the track, we suspect the investigating officer will be resigning in shame.