Among the debates that President Trump has helped to heat up is whether police are encountering more widespread disrespect and mistrust from civilians. During his campaign and since he has been in office, the president has frequently stated that the Obama administration too often blamed law enforcement authorities for fatal shootings and other tragic encounters between officers and civilians.
Police officers have one of the toughest jobs imaginable, and the majority of them perform that work admirably. However, a recent story out of North Carolina provides an example of why many people feel they cannot always trust law enforcement officers.
The Advantage of Knowing Your Rights
Jesse Bright is a criminal defense attorney in Wilmington, North Carolina, who drives for Uber on the weekends to help pay off student loans. Police stopped Bright earlier this year when police said he took a customer to a well-known drug house.
Bright made headlines nationwide because he filmed the police stop even after one officer told him to turn the camera off. “No, I’ll keep recording, thank you,” Bright responded. “It’s my right.” More discussion ensued and one officer told him there was a new law that prohibited filming on-duty officers.
You may know where the story goes from here. The officer’s statement proved to be erroneous, and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous quickly emphasized in press interviews that Bright was well within his rights to record the stop. After searching Bright’s car, both he and his passenger were allowed to go and neither man was charged.
Know When to Stand Up for Your Rights
Thousands of people watched the video of Bright’s stop online, and he became something of a folk hero for standing firm and not allowing a police officer to bully him using statements that were untrue. But not everyone knows the law like Jesse Bright. Most people would not be as confident when instructed by a police officer to do something.
And that’s OK.
As Raleigh News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders pointed out after the Jesse Bright story went viral, there is no guarantee this would play out the same way for someone else who found themselves in a similar situation – especially if that person is a minority. (Bright is white.)
“You know, if you’re being honest, that just about every time we see some unarmed, non-violent black man aerated by a cop or treated like a piñata, the predictable chorus from cop apologists begins: ‘Why don’t those people comply with the officer? Why must those people always talk back?’
“Yet, when Bright talks back to a cop, continues recording him after the cop tells him it’s illegal (it isn’t), refuses to exit the vehicle, the response is different. Dude becomes a danged hero,” Saunders states.
Laws Can Work For You After An Arrest
It is important to realize that if police break the law or provide information that is not true during an arrest, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys like those at Frank, Juengel & Radefeld can work to turn things around and make the law work for defendants.
Evidence that is improperly seized can be suppressed and barred from a trial. Mistakes made during a roadside sobriety test or a test for blood alcohol content (BAC) may be reason to dismiss the charges.
If you are being questioned by police and you are not a criminal defense lawyer like Jesse Bright, it is probably smarter to follow police orders initially and decline to answer questions until you are able to speak with an attorney. We welcome the opportunity to fight your legal battles for you.