i came back to the bombingscience forum for the first time in over a year and wrote this article... enjoy...
Before i get going, of course the formals:
- I am not condoning illegal graffiti writing.
- I am not condoning evading legal action or misleading police.
- I am promoting knowledge, and the right to know your own rights and freedoms.
- The following is for educational purposes only.
- The information is, as to the best of my knowledge, accurate. But no guarantees...
If your a Canadian writer it can sometimes be hard to find information regarding to dealing with police situations. It appears as though most information found on sites relating to writing were written with the United States laws in mind (although these are similar to Canada and are worth the read), or in the rare case European laws.... but for whatever reason, information for Canadians doesn't seem to be entering these sites/forums. So here I am writing out a general guide for Canada (it is usually good idea to check local laws since provincial or municipal laws may vary, although those laws usually only affect punishment if you are found guilty). Keep in mind this guide was written with people over the legal age (18) in mind. Also keep in mind this is not a guide for running from the police, or any other illegal activities for evading the police. You can choose to use those at your own discretion depending on the situation. This is the all legal (no running, no lying, but lots of clever wording) way of keeping yourself out of shit creek.
BEING SEARCHED AND/OR HAVING ITEMS CONFISCATED :
Typically if police ask if they can search you then it's a sign you might not be as screwed over as you'd think you'd be. If police have probable cause to search you, or have a search warrant then they wouldn't need to ask you, they'd straight up tell you "I'm going to search you" or whatever. So if they ask, reply with something a long the lines of "No, I do not give you consent to search me." Remember that when dealing with the police always be polite and friendly. Being hostile, angry, or even being a smart ass can work against you. You've got to make yourself sound educated and let them know that you are aware of your legal rights and freedoms, but don't let yourself sound sarcastic or like a smart ass, so sound friendly, polite, and as cooperative as you can while still upholding your rights and freedoms in order to cover your ass. If they begin searching without asking, remember to tell them (clearly) that you do not consent to the search of yourself or your belongings. If they give you a response like "it doesn't matter" or "I'm going to search you anyway" tell them that this is unlawful and anything found under and unlawful search cannot be used in court. As the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says "Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure."
Now let's say the police have probable cause. Probable cause can include the smell of marijuana/alcohol/etc, having clearly seen you deface property, obvious intoxication (you look/act drunk or high), etc. If an officer doesn't say anything and begins searching clearly remind them that you DO NOT give consent to be searched or to have your belongings searched. This is when they would mention probable cause (or a warrant) if they have it. Make sure the officer clearly states what probably cause he/she has, and what they are looking for. If probable cause is the smell of marijuana, then make sure they state that they are searching for marijuana. If and when they find paint/markers/etc on you, this is the same as an unlawful search, as none of those items can be used against you. This is why it's very important to make sure you know under what cause they are searching you and what they are searching for. Now to be honest, I believe that probable cause is in the discretion of the officer (another reason why being friendly/polite and as cooperative as possible is good), so that means I can't be positive if the police would consider paint on your hands/clothes or rattling cans in your schoolbag as probably cause (although being scene commit the crime is probable cause). However as far as I know, having paint on your hands/clothes is not illegal, and neither is the possession of spray paint or markers if you are over the age of 18. None the less, if you can silence your cans (I hear powerful magnets applied to the base work), wear gloves, and roll up your sleeves, it probably wouldn't hurt. Try to avoid getting paint on your shoes either. But in this case if they say they have probable cause because of cans rattling, etc, then it probably wouldn't hurt to state "I have nothing illegal in my possession and do not give consent for me or my belongings to be searched." Although the must state what they are searching for, it's probably a good idea to leave other illegal objects at home, such as drugs, alcohol (especially if open and/or if underage), weapons, etc. It also doesn't hurt to leave anything that may be incriminating (sketchbooks, etc.) at home while on missions as well. If they do search you and find spray paint, thats as incriminating as you'd want to be, no need to add salt to the wound.
Warrants is very similar to probable cause, as in the warrant is to search for a specific item. So if they have a warrant for drugs, and find paint, there is no need to get overly worried.
In general searches are not a big deal, as you can probably get off without being searched, and even if they do, all they've done is found spray paint and/or markers. This is somewhat suspicious, but not illegal, so don't incriminate yourself by admitting to have done any illegal activities with the paint/markers. If they ask if you have done anything illegal with them, you can choose to lie (if proven wrong, this could hurt you), or you could choose not to answer. The only information you are required to give to police is your name, address, and date of birth (probably shouldn't lie when giving out that information either, this can get you in even deeper shit, as giving false identification is an offense). If they give you an open-ended question like "what have you used these for" you can answer also very broadly with a response like "painting." If they ask what you were painting, time to shut your mouth and refuse to answer again. Of course, if you wanted to get real technical you could spray a little bit of paint onto a wall in your bedroom, and old bicycle, anything, and if they ask what you painted you could say "I have used this to paint a wall in my room" or "I have used this to paint my bicycle", etc. Of course, saying you ONLY used it to paint a wall/bicycle would be lying. Don't lie if you can give answers like those listed above. Notice how it says "I have used this to paint a wall in my room," and not "I have ONLY used this to paint a wall in my room." If asked why you have them in your schoolbag at such an obscure hour, you could reply that you placed them in there earlier and haven't dropped them off at home yet. This would technically be true, since you did place them in your bag earlier, and haven't dropped them off at home yet...
UPDATE (Sept 1 / 2005): A (popular) example of police trying to trick you into letting them having items in your possession that they can not legally confiscate is to ask you "If you were me, would you take the paint?". Basically this is them ASKING for LEGAL PERMISSION to take your paint away from you, but they try to word it otherwise. The best way to answer this is to say that spraypaint isn't illegal and that you'd like to keep your possessions. Don't play along with the whole 'if you were me' game, it's all a bunch of bullshit, they're just trying to get you to answer in a way that gives them the permission they need. If they could just take your paint, they would, without asking.
CAUGHT WHILE PAINTING:
Okay, let's say your painting a piece, you goto pick up a different can, you stand back for a second, anything, and the police come over. It seems pretty bad because here you are with your paint covered gloves, a can in your hand, and fresh paint on the wall, but you DO have one thing going for you, and that is that the police did not clearly see you painting the wall (this is a good idea to move all paint, and yourself, far from the wall if you hear footsteps, voices, or other strange sounds, until you investigate them). Basically that means they'll ask "did you just paint that wall?". Be careful to questions like that, and also be very aware that they probably won't word it as outright as that. They will probably make it seem as though they are making a statement rather than asking, or make it seem like they already know that you were. Just remember, if they did see you paint the wall for sure, they would not need you to say that you did. Don't get tricked into confessing without realizing it. However, that question may be risky and you are really only given 3 options. To say yes (bad idea), to deny or to simply keep your mouth shut (after all, the only information you need to give is your name/address/DOB). Let's say you deny, make up some lame lie like you saw the cans on the ground while walking by and were going to take them home with you for whatever reason. If they didn't see you painting, it may work, but its a long shot. If they did see you painting or otherwise prove your lying then you'll be in deeper shit just for lying. Now clearly not responding or stating 'I am not required by law to answer that question' will seem somewhat out of place as well. Perhaps the best way to not-answer that question is to reply asking "Are you detaining me?." If the answer is yes, ask under what grounds. If the answer is no, ask "am I free to go?" (perhaps best worded more naturally, "I should be getting home, am I free to go?". If they reply that you are not allowed to leave, then state "you just said I am not being detained, so I am free to go?". Not being free to go is in sense being detained. If the officer responds that you are being detained, ask under what cause. Chances are you already know the answer to this question. The next logical question I can think to ask after this (keep in mind you haven't admitted to painting the wall yet, you lead them off with a trail of questions) would be "am I under arrest?" If the answer is no, then repeat the process of questions about being detained, and being free to go. If the police ask you to goto the station with you (but haven't officially arrested you) than that is considered arbitrary detention, and you do not have to comply with it. Basically, to make things simpler, the only information you MUST give the police is your name, address, and date of birth. After this, the police have two options, to arrest you or to let you free. If you didn't let yourself get tricked into confessing your making yourself any more suspicious, then it MIGHT be hard for the police to lawfully arrest you, so there is a VERY SLIM possibility you will go free. If you are under arrest, there is 4 things that the officer must officially do. Make sure you pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to this because if they don't do one of the steps you may be able to have your case thrown out. The 4 things are:
1) Say who they are and show identification (in other words, show you their badge, etc.).
2) Tell you they are arresting you, explain why they are arresting you, and make sure that you understand why they are arresting you.
3) Touch you in a non-harmful way as an indication that you are officially under arrest.
4) They have to tell you that you have the right to call a lawyer and that you can remain silent.
Number 2 is an interesting one. If they did not see you clearly painting, and you didn't give yourself up on it, then if they say they are arresting you for painting the wall you can tell them that you don't UNDERSTAND (key word) why they are arresting you if they did not see you paint the wall. Either way they can probably argue they have enough evidence against you, but get them to point out that evidence. If they say you had spray paint, tell them that it is not illegal to have possession of spray paint and that you haven't had a chance to drop it off at home yet, etc. In other words, bring up points stating that you do not UNDERSTAND why you are under arrest if the officer did not clearly see you commit the crime. Remember to stay polite and friendly, yet sound knowledgeable, and make sure you are clearly stating you don't understand you are being arrested. If you are lucky enough, you may get off scot-free, you may be issued a warning or a caution, or something along those lines. But there is a good chance you will end up under arrest anyway.
Number 3 can also be interesting, and worth paying attention to. If the officer makes a movement as if they are going to touch you make a statement along the lines of "I do not give consent to be touched." Chances are, this won't work, but if you sounded knowledgeable talking to the officer before they may think you are a law buff and being afraid of causing trouble for themselves, they might not touch you. Excellent. Don't make a big deal of the fact they didn't touch you until you are talking to your lawyer, hopefully your lawyer can make a big deal out of this and get your case thrown out... it's a long shot, but if you can remember this it might just save your ass.
Number 4 is in the same boat as Number 3. Make sure they say it, and if they don't, don't remind them that they didn't. Leave this little detail for when you're talking to your lawyer. Speaking of which, whether they said it or not, it's good advice to remain silent and to call your lawyer. Keep in mind that according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms you are allowed privacy with your lawyer. Anyway, details aside, things didn't work out and you ended up arrested... more information in the 'You've Been Officially Arrested' Section.
YOU'VE BEEN OFFICIALLY ARRESTED:
First thing to note is that this said you've been OFFICIALLY arrested, referring to that the police used all 4 things required to officially arrest you, and that you were clearly seen painting the wall. There isn't much you can do to get out of being busted for that one wall, so this section is dedicated to keeping yourself out of even more shit once arrested. Assuming that you have been busted for that one piece they caught you painting, one thing they're very likely to do, is to try to get you to confess to other graffiti. Usually they'll do this by matching tag names, and there is a chance they'll even have photos of other graffiti you've done, and maybe even some that you haven't. So what do you do? Simple, don't admit to have done that other graffiti. I'm not saying you lie and give them a straight up no, just be calm and careful with your wording. They'll probably try to say something like "we know you did it. it's obvious, the signature looks exactly the same, blah blah blah". You don't admit to doing it, no matter what. Try to avoid lying to. The best thing if they say something along those lines would probably be "No, you don't." Now you may be thinking, I thought you said 'don't lie', and you're right. Saying "No, you don't" is you saying that the police don't know you did that other work. Its careful wording that works in a way to try to deny you from having done the other graffiti, and also undermines the police knowledge on it. Just think of it this way, how many times have you seen SLAYER or METALLICA or AC/DC written in public in the exact same style letters. If the police catch one person writing SLAYER he can't truly be blamed for everyone else who has written it exactly the same. So, don't admit to having done those other tags. If they ask why they are exactly the same say you aren't sure why it is, or that maybe you think some other kids have decided to write it too. Using the SLAYER/METALLICA/ACDC reference is something you should tell your lawyer, but not the police, perhaps he could use it in court for your defense. Let all the incrimination against you happen in the court. By letting the police no as little as possible you are able to keep them from building a case. At the same time, you are learning how they work and what they know, letting you and your lawyer build up a case. You may get busted for that one piece you got painted but they sure as hell don't have concrete evidence you painted/tagged anything else if you use these tactics. If the police continue to persist that they KNOW you did it, ask how they know you did it, etc. Reverse the tables and find out what they know and discuss with your lawyer. You can undermine them and build your case up while they learn nothing from you. Once again, I cannot stress how important it is you don't let the police know what you know, or even your tactics. This will give them something to build a case up against you. I almost forgot a very important thing, and that is what if the police outright ask you "Did you do those other tags?" A good answer would be "I cannot be responsible for what any other teenagers/kids do with spraypaint/markers/whatever." You are not lying, but you do slide the blame away from you while exploiting just how weak of a case the police have against you. The police will make it seem like they have a huge case against you, with tonnes of evidence. If they tell you scary accurate details about what you were wearing while painting another piece, or anything along those lines, reply again "I cannot be responsible for what other people do, even if it is similar to what you have accused me of doing." In the case of clothes, lets say they say you were wearing jeans and black nike hoody say "I can't be responsible for what everybody in jeans and a nike hoody has done." Again, slides the blame away without lying. Remember to be very careful not to say something like "I can't be responsible for anything anybody has done that is similar to what I had done." While it may seem like you slid the blame away, you also admitted to the crime you were arrested for. Bad idea. Even though you are probably going to get in shit for it anyway, and this section assumes you are and is about avoiding more shit, just keep in mind it's not over until the fat lady sings. Never admit, let the judge decide if the police have enough against you. If the police ever tell you that they even have pictures or video of you doing graffiti, ask to see it. Don't admit, don't deny or lie. Just say something like "well, I'm not sure how that could be, do you mind if I look at these supposed pictures/video?". Once again, be careful with wording. Do not say something like "well that'd be interesting to see," even though it's not admitting to it, it could be used against you as you aren't denying that it exists. If the photos/videos do exist, there is no proof that it is you unless there are super clear facial shots or anything of the like either. So don't fret too much. If you wear a mask in the first place, then even less to worry about. Basically, if you aren't able to come up with clever non-lying denials for what they ask, don't answer. Say you feel uncomfortable and don't want to answer, or anything along those lines, or simply say nothing at all. Because if you aren't careful and speak you can do more harm than good without even realizing it.
Another thing to keep in mind, be prepared to do some embarrassing things. If you are being interrogated they may use bathroom breaks as a way to get you to confess. This means they may have water on the table, and over time you may feel the urge to piss. While not moral they may say they can only let you use the bathroom if you confess. NEVER CONFESS. PISS YOUR PANTS BEFORE YOU CONFESS. I'm serious, I'd rather pee my pants right there and get it out of me, then to confess to things. Remember, interrogation cannot go on forever. If it goes on for what seems like too long, ask to speak to your lawyer in privacy. At the very least it'll give you a break, he can give you some tips, and you can make sure the police at the very least are conducting legal interrogation. Never sell yourself short, let the judge decide if you did what you are being accused of, no matter how much things stack against you. Also remember that police are not in charge of 'cutting you deals'. Offering less sentence time for ratting on somebody else, etc. Sentencing is upto the judge and can't be determined until you are charged with the crime (judge finds you guilty). In other words, they may say you'll get a less of a sentence if you rat somebody out, but how would the police know this if you haven't be charged or even sentenced yet. If, however, you are charged and sentenced by the judge (God forbid), then they may try to cut your sentence for real. Just remember, no matter what, NO RATTING. You know all the shit you've been through, don't make it harsh for anyone else. When and if you are sentenced, try to see if you can get into a deversion program, or perhaps community service in exchange for lesser fines and/or lesser to no jail time (if it's that serious). No matter how little the sentencing, check the alternatives out...
YOU'VE BEEN RATTED OUT:
Being ratted out is the same as the previous section on being arrested, except they didn't even catch you painting in the first place. Follow the same guidelines as the previous section on being arrested and hopefully everything works out fine. Chances are they can't prove anything unless you pretty much (and possibly inadvertedly) told them what they needed to hear. Word cleverly and surely when you can, and when you can't, say nothing at all. Basically somebody said that you do graffiti, and what you write, but they didn't list any specific places or times or places you did graffiti. A person could be a witness in court and say that you write 'whatever' but since the person didn't witness you actually do the graffiti it doesn't help the case against you much... However, the police will try to use this information to question you more, and try to get you to talk. If you've been ratted on and the police ask you to go down to the station for questioning, it's probably best to politely refuse. If after someone rats on you, the police show up and arrest you, it's best to remain silent.
Now in the case that the person who ratted on you also gives a specific time/location that he witnessed you vandalise property... well, I think in this case say NOTHING to the police, talk only to your lawyer.
The police show up at your house with a search warrant. Check the warrant and see what it's for. Check to see what they are allowed to seize according to the search. Ask the police officers for their names and badge numbers. If the warrant is for drugs and they find paint, sketches, markers, whatever, then they can't seize that or use it against you. Seizing it or using it against you would be unlawful. If they do have a warrant for graffiti stuff, and find it, what they have no is evidence against you, but possibly not proof. It's not illegal to be in possession of those items, so you can't be arrested or charged for that. As in the previous two sections, just don't let it work against you, and don't let yourself work against you. If they find sketches, there is no proof to say that you didn't draw what you saw on the street. Drawing what you saw on the street is not illegal. Proving that because you have something on paper that you painted it on a wall can be a tough sell if you don't confess or inadvertedly tell them what they need to hear. Try wording it in such ways that don't indicate whether the sketch was drawn before or after the piece was painted. Once again, know how to be quiet, or use the Ronald Reagan "I Don't Recall" answer to questions that would be hard to answer without directly lying.
The Lie Detector:
Lie Detector (Polygraph) use is becoming more and more common, as the cost of polygraphs goes lower. Now, the first thing to keep in mind, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, is that in most (or all?) cases, you DO NOT have to take the lie detector test. The police may once again try to trick you into taking it, perhaps by telling you that by taking it you can 'clear your name right now'. Again, REFUSE to take the test, just say you'd rather be on your way or whatever, just don't take the test. In a case where the police try to make you take a lie detector test, consult with a lawyer first, seeing as how I don't think the police have a right to make you take a polygraph, but I'm not a lawyer, so it's best to check with one. I highly recommend going to http://www.AntiPolygraph.org and reading what they have, not only about how the lie detector is unreliable and had a low accuracy rate, how the lie detector is based off tricking the person taking it (you), and tips for beating a lie detector in the case that you HAVE to take one. It is not a bad or wrong thing to do, to refuse to take a lie detector test, and they can't use it against you in any sort've way, the very same way they can't use you refusing to let them search you to make you seem more suspect.
- Wear gloves and roll up your sleeves. Keep the paint off your hands and clothes.
- Wear a mask. It'll keep your pretty face from unknowingly being photographed or videotaped. Plus if it's a respirator it'll keep your lungs nice and safe.
- Be aware of the environment around you while painting, as well as noises such as a car pulling up and stopping, somebody walking close by, etc, etc. When these happen, remove yourself and paint from the immediate area of the wall and investigate what's up.
- Don't leave cans at the crime scene. Finger printing is getting fairly cheap and practical for the police to use, and if they think they can bust you for other graffiti they wouldn't be against checking prints. At the same time, nobody is to say that just because you touched some cans, you actually did graffiti. Anybody can walk by a public place, see cans, pick them up to see what they are, and put them back down on the ground. Again, police will try to trick you if they have your prints... don't be fooled.
- When talking to police be calm, confident, knowledgeable, polite and friendly. Be as cooperative as possible without the risk of incriminating yourself... unless you're put under arrest, then remain silent, and only talk to your lawyer. ONLY YOUR LAWYER. (If you don't have one, say nothing anyway. Just keep saying nothing. Try to get a lawyer... and in the meantime, say nothing to the police.)
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Read this over a few times, read the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Check these relevant links: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/ & http://www.settlement.org/sys/faqs_detail....&faq_id=4000360 & http://www.AntiPolygraph.org/
- If you are being charged with vandalism to business/private property, talk to the owners and see if you can't somehow get the charges dropped. Even so, try not to admit. Just say it isn't worth the hassle of the court system if you could simply clean it off.
- Lawyer fees are better to pay then legal fees, fines, and a record.
- You have to remember that legal thinking and logical thinking are two VERY different things. If the police present enough evidence where any sane person would easily assume you did it, you might not be caught. The legal system thinks very different. So don't let them stack evidence against you and tell you it's obvious you're caught. If this was true, they woudn't be needing you to say anything or sign anything.
- DON'T SIGN ANYTHING.
- You are innocent until proven guilty. This is why you don't have to deny things, you merely don't have to let yourself get tricked into admitting them.
The police, if charging you with a crime, don't need to talk to you at all... so when they're talking to you, they're only trying to get you to incriminate yourself. If they need to ask you to do something, they don't have the right to do it, or else they would've done it without asking... so whenver they ask you if they can do anything, take anything, get you to do anything, etc.... just refuse. And if you're already under arrest, it's probably best not to talk to them at all...