Saturday, July 2, 2016
Traveling and the police
If you travel across country you are going to cross a lot of different police jurisdictions, everything from the local Barney Fife to jack booted Stormtroopers. Stay on the road long enough and you'll eventually have an encounter with the law. I've developed a few rough and ready rules of thumb for dealing with them. It helps to have a plan for the day you do get stopped.
Number one is always be polite. I keep my hands on the wheel in plain view and the officer is always addressed as sir. Never rise to taunts. Some badge wearing sociopaths try and push your buttons hoping you'll rise to the bait and push back. It's not about defending your manhood here, it's about getting home in one piece.
That being said, you don't have to give in to everything they say. If they ask if it's Okay to search your car feel free to say no. Make them get a warrant. I've seen cars totally trashed by cops on a fishing expedition looking for evidence. If they don't find any some cops are not beyond planting some. With full access to your car it's easy to do.
If stopped at a road block they can only really hold you for about 15 minutes. Ask if you are being detained. If they say you are then it's a whole different legal framework. Odds are they'll let you go.
There are cops who'll ignore the law and stomp all over your rights as they don't care. You won't win that battle on the side of the road. Later on a good lawyer can make merry hash of a bad stop, especially if you keep your cool. A hefty financial settlement and getting them fired is much more satisfying that taking a swing at them. Besides, they'll either beat the crap out of you or just plain shoot you.
Avoiding trouble in the first place saves a lot of grief. Stay informed. Two years ago Maryland was stopping the cars of people traveling on the highway who happened to have concealed carry permits. There are specific ways to cross state lines with firearms and it's easy to make minor errors. Keep up with the law.
Recently I heard that Oklahoma was scanning debit cards and stealing money right out people's accounts. It's wrong, but it's legal because they say it's legal. As for myself I'm keeping out of Oklahoma.
Find your people and share information with them. If you are traveling in an RV, talk to other RV owners about their experiences with the law. Same goes for everything from hitchhiking vagabonds, to van dwellers, to any other group of people. Some places are more friendly to your particular life style than others. Most folks are happy to share what they know.
It's true that most cops are good, but that means some aren't. There are whole departments that make a point of hiring sociopaths. They are rotten from top to bottom. You really do not want to be in their jurisdiction or in the the sort of group they like to target. There are places that treat RV folks just fine, but beat up people traveling through on bicycles.
It sounds grim, but most folks most of the time are just fine. Be prepared for the exceptions.