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I was too succinct in my message about dealing with cops.  I didn't
want to write a long message, but by responding briefly, I said things
that could easily be misconstrued, and now I'll have to spend the
time.  Sandy is right about a number of things.  As he points out, you
are not required to have documents on your person saying who you are,
but you do have to give a name (and probably an address) when the
police ask.

However, there are many times when a cop asks a question that you
don't have to answer.  Cops are allowed to just "nose around," and
it's in this situation that you aren't required to be very
forthcoming.  Cops are allowed to ask idle questions (as anyone is).
They don't have as many special rights at these times.  When they do
have probable cause, they can insist that you cooperate or allow a
search.  And if you don't cooperate, they can arrest you.

If they don't have probable cause, and are just poking around, they
have to let you go if they haven't found anything suspicious.  If you
assume they always have the right to insist, you will spend more time
talking to cops than you have to, and will let them dig deeper than
they have a right to.  The longer they poke around the better the
chances they'll find something you thought of as innocent that they
think is suspicious.  Many people let police search when they don't
have to, thinking they don't have a choice.

When a cop asks if he can look in the trunk of your car, or take a
look around your apartment, you can say "I'd rather not," and ask if
you're free to go.  **Remember that they have a gun** and the right to
use it in some situations.  Be polite.  They'll let you know if
they're insisting on your cooperation.  Physical resistance is a very
bad idea.  But there's no need to let them look if they don't insist,
and they are prohibiting from insisting if they don't have a legally
justifiable reason.

In my previous message, I said
    ... Just say "Officer, someone is waiting for me.  May I
    go now?"

and Sandy responded:
  Just say "no"?  I *guarantee* this won't work.  If you are asking
  permission ("May I go?"), aren't you ceding to the officer the
  legal right to say "no"? If you believe you don't have to
  interact with the nice man, why not just turn your back and walk
  away without a word?  (I wouldn't advise it.)

Again, I spoke too quickly, and so left out the caveats and details.
Cops have to have probably cause before they can detain you.  When
they have probably cause, they'll let you know.  "Just turn[ing] your
back and walk[ing] away without a word" is a bad idea, but if you give
them everything they ask for without objecting, you're giving in too
quickly.  Cops are not always your friends.  If a cop asks to search
you, your car or your apartment, the proper response is "I'm real busy
right now, I'd rather not."  "May I go" is a question that forces a
cop to either claim he has a reason to hold or search you or admit
that you can go.  If they have a legally justifiable reason for
insisting, they'll let you know.

Many people try to claim in court that a search was "without probable
cause," and lose because they didn't object, and so the search is
deemed to have been voluntary.  Anything they find in a voluntary
search is admissible in court.

The question isn't "Do you have something to hide?" but "Does
everything you own look completely innocent from all viewpoints?"


Sorry for the length.