[Noisebridge-discuss] Some smart things to do when asked anything by an officer of the law

Martin Bogomolni martinbogo at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 20:56:01 UTC 2012

This goes for policemen, FBI agents, NSA agents, you name it.  Some
no-nonsense simple rules to protect your legal butt.

* Be courteous and non-confrontational.  Don't talk back, don't raise
your voice.  You can only lose by increasing the hostility of the
* Keep your private stuff out of sight.  If it's in plain view, no
search warrant is needed for the officer to have a lock.   This also
extends to your laptop, so remember to "lock screen" if possible.
* Determine the reason you have been pulled aside/stopped/asked a
question.  Ask "Why am I being questioned/stopped/detained"
* REFUSE a warrantless search and refuse a warrantless entry.   Just.
Say.  No.   If a police officer asks your for your permission to
search, you are under no obligation to consent.  If you consent to a
search, you are giving up one of the strongest and best constitutional
rights you have.  (Fourth amendment)  "... I do not consent to a
search of my private property."
* Determine if you can leave, if stopped by an officer.   "I have to
be on my way, am I free to go?"
* DO NOT PHYSICALLY RESIST.  If the officer/agent/etc decide to
detain, search, or arrest you without your consent, don't resist
physically.   Stick peacefully to your guns, and say clearly but
without raising your voice or confronting the officer "I am not
resisting arrest and I don't consent to any searches."   Or better
yet, say -nothing- until you have an attorney present.
* Don't answer _any_ questions without an attorney present.   The
officer/agent/sheriff/deputy is not your friend, no matter how
friendly they are, or how conversational.   Assert your fifth, and
sixth amendment rights!  Simply say "Officer, I have nothing to say
until I speak with a lawyer."   Anything you say, beyond that, can
lead to a "reasonable" search and thus a warrantless search.  This
includes the whole of the hackerspace, for example.

Many of you have heard this spiel before, from me, from Jake Applebaum
and others at events ranging from Burning Man to Defcon.   You can do
as you wish, but your legal butt is best protected if you follow this
procedure.   You may politely, but firmly deny entry to any officer at
the door of Noisebridge, and in my opinion should do so.   Refer the
officer politely to the board of Noisebridge, give them appropriate
contact information if you know it (the website address will do),
unless they have a warrant (see above).

Some caveats:  This is for the United States only.  Different
countries have different laws.
This does NOT WORK with the TSA.  They have a separate federal
mandate, and are present on private property (the airport/train
This does NOT WORK with Customs Agents.  Again, they have a separate
federal mandate.
This does NOT (neccesarily) WORK if you are currently enlisted in the
military, on a base, etc.  This includes parts of the Presidio,
Monterrey Bay, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, etc.  The uniform
code of military justice is the standard if you're in the military,
and as a civilan guest on a base you have relented certain rights.
The right to remain silent does, however, still apply.
I am not a lawyer.  However I am a Black Rock Ranger and have been
volunteering at Burning Man for a number of years.  This advice was
compiled from the material distributed by the legal team that trains
us to be mediators between law enforcement and the participants at
Burning Man.   It is field tested.

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