“Just say no” is a phrase and a slogan popularized by the government’s anti-drug programs. It is catchy, short, and to the point. It is aimed primarily at young people, but it is a phrase that should apply equally to other situations, as well.
“No,” is a very good and very protective word.
The only thing that protects innocent citizens from government oppression is the Constitution. The first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution, usually referred to as the Bill of Rights, puts limits on the government’s treatment of people. But, a person can waive those rights at any time and allow the government to do anything they want. That waiver should be given in only the rarest circumstances, and never without first consulting a lawyer. When dealing with the government, at almost any level, you should stand up, not be intimidated and just say, “No.” By doing so, your rights are preserved and you are protected.
As a prosecutor before, and now as a defense attorney, I have watched thousands of mostly boring, routine and traffic stop videos. Of course, the reason I was watching them is because the traffic stop led to an arrest on another charge. (Believe it or not, most drug arrests are the result of traffic stops and searches.) As I am watching these videos, it always amazes me how often people waive their rights against unreasonable searches.
When a police officer makes a traffic stop he will often ask (especially when they stop young people), “are there any illegal drugs or weapons in the vehicle?” The standard answer from drivers is “no.” Which leads to the next police question, “Do you mind if I look in your vehicle to be sure?” And the amazing thing is people usually respond with, “Okay, go ahead. I don’t have anything to hide.” The right answer is, “No. You can’t.” Here is a simple fact that seems to elude many people: If you give the police authority to search, they will search. They will never say “Well, since you seem cooperative, you must not have anything to hide so I won’t bother.”
I am sure that many people reading this will say to themselves, “I am a law-abiding citizen. I don’t use drugs, I really don’t have anything to hide, and I don’t want a police officer even thinking that I am trying to hide anything.” But, here is something you may not have considered: If anybody else has ever been in your vehicle, you do not really know what is in your vehicle.
For Example: If two months ago, you gave the neighbor’s son a ride into town, and he accidentally, and completely unknowingly, dropped a piece of a marijuana cigarette out of his pocket onto your floorboard, guess who gets charged when the police find it? It is your vehicle and you are the only one in the vehicle. You are going to jail.
Regardless of the commonly used, idealistic but not realistic phrase, “innocent until proven guilty,” innocent people charged with a crime have to go through the same bail process, attorney fees, and court appearances guilty people do.
Despite the faith that we generally have in our legal system, innocent people sometimes do get convicted. As my mother used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Remember this, and remind your children, “Be safe. Be sure. Just say no”