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Know Your Rights

We all have important Constitutional rights, guaranteed by the US Constitution as well as the Constitution of the State of Oregon.

However, during my 40 years of practicing law, I have seen many instances in which people have been placed at a severe disadvantage because they do not know their rights, or do not know how to assert their rights, or have been manipulated to waive their rights. I have encountered many situations in which people have regretted speaking to the police, or waived their precious Constitutional rights. Conversely, I have never met a person who regretted remaining silent. These are the rights we must all be aware of when facing a law enforcement investigation:

We Have The Right To Remain Silent

One of our most precious rights is the right to remain silent. The US and Oregon Constitutions protect us all from having to incriminate ourselves. The easiest response to law enforcement is to “Take the Fifth”. Police sometimes can be manipulative, and try to suggest that remaining silent will be taken as an indication of guilt. But do not be manipulated. Remaining silent is exactly what the police do when they are suspected of acting inappropriately. If “Taking the Fifth” is good enough for the police, it is good enough for all of us.

We Have The Right To Legal Counsel

The twin of the right to remain silent is the right to counsel. The right to counsel is enshrined in the US and Oregon Constitutions. When confronted by a law enforcement investigation, we all have the right to say the following words: I WILL NOT SPEAK WITHOUT MY ATTORNEY PRESENT. Upon uttering these magic words, police officers are required to cease questioning. Moreover, once a person utters these magic words, the government is prohibited from using the person’s silence as evidence of guilt. Whenever a police officer is suspected of doing something wrong, they always recite the words I WILL NOT SPEAK WITHOUT MY ATTORNEY PRESENT. The reason the police do not speak without legal counsel is that they know that the legal system IS NOT FAIR to people who speak without their attorney present.

We Have The Right To Be Free From Unreasonable Searches & Seizures

Police frequently want to enter a person’s home to search for evidence. They also like to look in a person’s cell phone seeking incriminating information. There is no requirement that anyone submit to such a search. We are all entitled to decline consent to search, unless the authorities have a search warrant signed by a judge. In ancient England, the law has held for centuries that A MAN’s HOME IS HIS CASTLE. The Constitutions of the US and Oregon enshrine this principle in the rule that the police must not intrude on private property without probable cause and a search warrant. Our right to privacy is vitally important, and should not be waived.

Stand On Your Rights And Do Not Be Intimidated

Our Constitutional rights will only be respected by law enforcement if we know our rights and are unafraid to assert them. Do not be intimidated. Do not be manipulated. Our Constitutional rights are precious. Make sure people know their rights and are willing to assert them.

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