Ask the Police: Q&A

Note: Our regular writer, Cory Tchida, is getting some expert training this month so we have checked in with Quora and CopTalk for some helpful law enforcement tips.

If a cop already has someone pulled over on the side of the road, and you swerve around them but don’t go completely into the second lane, is that a considered a failure to yield to an emergency vehicle?

The law is often interpreted differently by different people. If you go to court and say you slowed down and partially changed lanes before passing, it will be your word against the officers. I see people disobey this law quite a bit because they just are not aware of it.

If you go to court and say you knew of the law and explain the actions you took the judge may or may not side with you. In the least, if the officer doesn’t show up the citation will be dismissed. Sounds like you feel you did enough while the officer felt you didn’t do enough.

If you feel strongly that you didn’t deserve the ticket you should go to court to fight it. Just remain calm, don’t interrupt the officer, and wait for your turn to explain your side. Photos of the scene would be helpful showing your view as you approached the area. With an enlarged photo you’ll be able to show the judge exactly what you did. People with great photos and prepared for their case often have a good chance in court rather than the people who just show up empty handed and say they are innocent.

Besides lots of paperwork, what do TV cops get wrong compared to real cops?

Everything, in no particular order. If the captain deigns to recognize your existence, you don’t get to say ‘No’. You don’t get to yell at your supervisor.

You can’t get next of kin, forensic results, bank records, cell phone logs, or lab technicians within days, let alone hours.

Crime scenes don’t remain pristine for days or weeks, or sometimes even hours.

Shoot a suspect, ride a desk. No going out the next day to shoot another.

Bad guys know if you sit outside their house for hours. Or if you follow them, riding their bumper.

There are other units out there, and they use the radio. Sometimes their traffic is more important than yours. And dispatchers do not have a sense of humor (at least on the radio).

You would swear I’m making it up if I told you even half of the excuses we get.

There truly is evil in the world.

Are there any questions a cop could ask you that you may be obligated to answer without an attorney present?

Identify yourself and then say nothing else until you have counsel present.  Although you might ask where you can make your phone call you know that you are innocent and would only tell the truth, but the police officer deals with the lying dregs of humanity all day, day after day.

A final note.  After Miranda Rights are read, officers sometimes ask “Do you understand these rights.”  Don’t answer.  Don’t say yes, and don’t say no. Sometimes they will insist that you answer, which is clearly improper as they just told you that you have the right to remain silent.

Saying you understand your Miranda Rights could cause problems down the road after you have determined that you are not really a suspect and start talking too freely.  And it’s a lie anyway.  You don’t understand Miranda Rights.  Nobody understands Miranda Rights because their nuances are decided on a case-by-case basis with different results in different states and federal circuits.  If the Supreme Court can go 5-4 on some Miranda issue, you certainly can’t claim to understand it.

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