Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters with Law Enforcement: By Katya Komisaruk, 192 pages. By Megan Pants

Aug 06, 2007

            This is a guide for a variety of run-ins with police, security guards, FBI, and many other agencies. The text is balanced by comics which show the scenario all the way through, then again with the guidance of Sibyl Rites. She explains how to phrase responses to get you out of (or into less) trouble. There are a lot of interesting tips in here, which I never knew. Things like the differences between being arrested and being detained, and the how the police can treat you in each of those situations. For instance, if you are only being detained, the police can’t search your pockets. They can pat you down and ask you to remove the contents, but you can refuse to show them. Also, if the police show up with an arrest warrant, it isn’t necessarily a search warrant as well, but if you let them into the house they can search anything within reach. Even if they have a search warrant there can be glitches. Search warrants have to be specific. They have to have the exact address and your name. If you live in an apartment, the number has to be on the warrant. There is a date issued, and they usually only remain valid for two weeks at most. If any of the details are wrong, the entire warrant is invalid and they cannot enter without your permission.

            Sometimes it seems like the advice for the right actions are a lot more hassle than the gut reaction. In the case of mistaken identity, they suggest that you stick to your guns, remain silent, and get a lawyer. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m getting arrested for something I know I didn’t do, I think I’d protest. Their position is that whenever you give up your right to silence that you may disclose some detail that the police can then press charges (even if they had none to start with). I also know of people who have refused to let an officer search their vehicle to protect their own privacy, knowing they had nothing to hide. The officers took their refusal as probable cause that there was something worth searching for and impounded the car until they could get a warrant. It seems like a lot more trouble than the hassle of them looking in my trunk for ten minutes and asking about the drugs they know I’m smuggling.

            There’s a lot of helpful tips about witnessing police misconduct, working with a lawyer, the rights of non-citizens, and dealing with undercover cops. The main points I came away with were to be careful in what you say and sign. Words can be manipulated very easily to have very specific, and possibly detrimental, meanings. In this case, misunderstanding can lead to jail time. A good eye-opener. –Megan (AK Press, 674-A 23rd St, Oakland, CA 94612-1163)

Thankful Bits is supported and made possible, in part, by grants from the following organizations.
Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of our grantors.