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Know Your Rights This St. Patrick's Day

Know Your Rights

Regardless of how St. Patrick's Day came about or the nature of its origin and traditions, the American version of the holiday has become another reason to throw a party, eat some Irish food (or worse, foods we all normally eat dyed green with food coloring), and drink heavily. Sometimes, people who party and drink in excess on St. Patrick's Day have their run-ins with the law. Disclaimer: the best thing to do is be responsible and under control. However, if you know that you are not the kind of person, who parties responsibly and under control, and you have a sense that a run-in with the law may be in your future, then it is important to know your rights this St. Patrick's Day.

The Police, The 4th Amendment, and You

Under normal circumstances, the Constitution and the 4th Amendment protect U.S. citizens from the unlawful search and seizure of a private residence without a search warrant. If police officers, however, can see a felony being committed at a private residence, they have the legal right to act on what they saw. The general rule is: Do not break the law and commit felonies.

The Police and Your Rights

  • Do not resist arrest. If you are having a discussion with police before an arrest occurs, that is the time to "state your case" in a respectful, yet knowledgeable tone. Even if you feel the arrest is unwarranted, do not resist. If you are innocent, then do not give the police a real reason to arrest you by resisting arrest.
  • It is within your rights to deny a police officer's request to search your property or home. If you allow officers to search your premises, even without a warrant, they can use any evidence found during the search against you in court. If police are standing outside your residence and they find evidence that is in plain view, they can also use that evidence in court against you.
  • It is your legal right to deny taking a Breathalyzer test; however, refusal of a Breathalyzer test could possibly carry the consequence of a 6 month driver's license suspension.
  • Police officers do not have the right to use excessive force, arrest you for exercising free speech, arrest you without probable cause, or search you without probable cause.


Possible St. Patrick's Day Offenses and What To Do

  • Buying alcohol for people under 21
    • In most areas of the country, this offense is citable with a fine and an appearance in court.
  • Using a fake ID to purchase alcohol
    • If you are under 21, you use a fake ID to purchase alcohol, and you are caught, you will most likely have your driver's license suspended.
  • Being confronted by a police officer The best practice is to cooperate with the officer. Do not run away from police or resist arrest. This only increases the number of possible charges against you. Speak to officers directly and honestly, but do not argue. Arguing your case should be reserved for the courts.

Whether you believe it or not, and regardless of all the crooked cop shows on television, most police officers are doing the best job that they can at protecting and serving their community. Most people know the value of police officers in their community. However, if on St. Patrick's Day, you find yourself walking the line of legality and you have a run-in with the police, it is important that you understand your rights and act accordingly.

Larry Nowak

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