It seems like more and more often we hear of citizens being beaten or even killed by an armed police officer in what was, ostensibly, a routine traffic stop or an arrest for a relatively minor crime. The city of Denver is currently facing a group of cases charging the police department with brutality. While at the same time, a staggering settlement in the amount of $4.6 million was just awarded to the family of a homeless man who was killed while being booked into the Denver jail. The man, a former preacher, was handcuffed, placed in a chokehold, tasered, and had a team of officers pile on top of him. He later died from his injuries. There are many more such situations across Colorado and the nation. While we are all potentially at risk, knowing and understanding your rights may help you, should you ever be caught in such a situation.
What Are Your Rights?
We all have certain inalienable rights. The Fifth Amendment grants every person the right to remain silent, while the Fourth Amendment restricts governmental powers. The First Amendment protects your right to speak freely. If law enforcement arrives on your doorstep, do not invite them in, do not answer questions, other than to state your name, and make it clear that you will not talk without benefit of a lawyer. Paradoxically, while law enforcement agents are allowed to lie to you in any way they choose, lying to a governmental agent is a crime.
Anything you say, no matter how harmless or insignificant will be used against you. Police officers are highly skilled at extricating information; so remaining silent is always your best option. If you are placed under arrest, you are still not obligated to speak to anyone, until your attorney arrives. You are only required to allow officers in your home or to perform a search of your vehicle if they are in possession of a valid search warrant.
If you are stopped while walking, the police officers have the right to pat you down if they suspect you are carrying a firearm or other weapon. Any further search is not legal. State clearly you do not consent to a search, and then ask politely if you are free to go. If you are in your car, you are required to show your license, registration and proof of insurance and you do not have to consent to a search, although the police may say they have probable cause and search your car anyway.
Steps to Take If You Have Suffered Harm, Injury or Harassment at the Hands of a Police Officer
Write down any identifying information about the officer, including his or her badge number. If there were witnesses, take their names and phone numbers, and if you sustain injuries, seek medical attention and document your injuries with photographs as soon as possible. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible; this one simple step can make all the difference in the outcome the incident. Your attorney can ensure critical evidence is not “misplaced,” or lost, and that your rights are consistently protected. If every citizen reported every incident of police brutality and misconduct, these acts would decrease.
To Protect and Serve?
While most of us want to believe police officers protect us, ensuring we live in a peaceful, crime-free environment, in reality many times those same police officers are looking for any excuse to exercise their power. It is estimated that between 500 and 1,000 Americans are killed by police officers each and every year and there are few statistics regarding how many are injured. While most allegations of police brutality involve punching or hitting victims with batons, about a quarter of reported cases involve firearms or Tasers. It is difficult to have an ethical police force when all investigations and punishments come from within the department and the so-called “blue wall” is alive and well.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and you believe that your rights were violated by a Colorado police officer, the most positive action you can take is to call an experienced, knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense lawyer immediately. If your rights were violated during the arrest, your attorney may be able to use this to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Boulder, contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.