Police officers have an obvious personal interest in connecting the people they investigate with criminal activity. Police officers can also sometimes abuse their authority for personal reasons. The Bill of Rights, which contains the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, enshrines very important protections for those facing investigation by the state.
One of the most important protections you have is the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of your property. Police officers often trick people into giving up their rights during the investigation process, including the right to refuse searches.
How police officers manipulate members of the public
The average person knows they cannot lie to the police, but they may not realize that the police can essentially lie to them with impunity. Police officers can and will misrepresent what evidence they have or their influence over the case in an effort to trick, manipulate or coerce individuals into certain behaviors.
When an officer wants to conduct a search and does not have the legal right to do so, the simplest solution is often to trick an individual into giving up their basic protections. An officer who shows up at your front door and says they just want to talk to you may actually want to gain access to your home to do a cursory search for signs of criminal activity.
A police officer who pulled you over may ask for permission to search your vehicle and then mention that it’s much faster when people give permission than when they have to do things the formal or hard way. To obtain the right to search your vehicle or your home without your permission, a police officer would need probable cause to suspect a crime in progress or a warrant signed by a judge. Without either of those, your consent is the only option.
They can trick you during questioning, too
Once police officers have you in state custody, they may trick you into giving up other rights, not just the right to avoid searches. For example, they may tell you that if you talk to them now, they can help you avoid jail. They might also tell you that they won’t cooperate with you if you call an attorney after telling you that you have the right to use one.
Understanding your rights and the tricks police officers used to get around those rights can help you better protect yourself if you find yourself the subject of a criminal investigation.