You have the right to know your rights

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 Photo illustration by Neven Jones

Photo illustration by Neven Jones

File with internal affairs if police misconduct occurs.

By Adriana Ruiz 

You have the right to remain silent, the right to refuse or consent to a search, the right to calmly leave if you are not under arrest and the right to a lawyer.

Getting stopped by a police officer can be intimidating, whether you are doing something wrong or not.

If you are pulled over in a car or stopped on the street, it is because you look suspicious or there is probable cause to question you, said San Antonio Police Officer Carlos Guillen.

Guillen said an officer can only detain you for 15 to 20 minutes without cause, “I have to have some form of probable cause to hold you. I can’t just hold you to hold you.”

Guillen said a probable cause could be almost anything that looks suspicious.

“If you walk into a parking lot at Wal-Mart and you are looking inside cars and we come to find out you are not driving, well then, why are you looking into cars?”

He said an officer stops someone because of reasonable suspicion, and, through questioning, can gain probable cause for detention.

“That’s how we detain you — and we are just detaining you; you are not under arrest, but we are going to do a background (check) on you, we are going to check and see what you’re doing, what your story is and check your history to make sure you are not wanted,” Guillen said.

If someone is pulled over, they do not have to consent to a search, Guillen said. The Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, states peoples’ personal property will not be searched or violated unless there is probable cause.

Guillen said an officer can inventory a vehicle only when someone is under arrest. He said an officer will not dig through your stuff, but they will do a general search in the trunk or back seat of the car.

The officer can obtain a search warrant once you are under arrest.

“Officers may or may not succeed in getting a warrant if they follow through and ask the court for one, but once you give your consent, they do not need to try to get the court’s permission to do the search,” ACLU’s “Know Your Rights When Encountering Law Enforcement” states.

Although suspects do not need to agree to a search and have the right to remain silent, Guillen said if someone is stopped or pulled over in a vehicle, police cars always record the event.

“If I pull you over, our cameras and our mics will (turn on) and they’ll show almost 45 seconds prior to me turning on my light switch and will pretty much catch everything and will pretty much catch the violation,” Guillen said.

If a suspect locks the doors and rolls up the windows, Guillen said an officer can call a sergeant for how to handle the situation.

Guillen said anyone who feels their civil rights were violated or there was police misconduct, can file a complaint against the officer. Criminal justice Chair Lloyd Marshall said internal affairs will interview the officer and the complainant.

“Most likely, they will ask you for something in writing, they will conduct an interview and then they will go forward, go ask the officer and … try to resolve,” Marshall said.


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