As promised, here’s the last 30 seconds of my encounter with the cops last night. And here’s the full story of what happened:
I was about to drop off my friend off at her apartment at around 1am, and as I’m driving down her street (at the speed limit) and about to turn into her complex (with my left turn signal engaged), I saw a cop pulling up behind me with his lights on. Note for the reader: it’s always a bad idea to pull over in a secluded area, because cops are shady assholes, so ALWAYS stay within eyesight of the public. For this reason, I stopped right in the middle of the entrance to my friend’s complex.
He came up to my window and demanded my drivers’ license and vehicle registration. I asked, “what’s the purpose of this stop?”
- He responded: “I’ll tell you why I stopped you after you show me your license and registration.”
- Me: “No, you’ll tell me why you stopped me, and then I might show you my license and registration.”
- Him: “You don’t have license plates.”
- Me: “That’s not a valid reason to stop me.”
- Him: “Yes it is. Under CA law, you need to have plates.”
- Me: “Not if the car is new.”
- Him: “This car isn’t new.”
- Me: “Yes it is.”
- Him: “Well regardless, this is a legal stop.”
- Me: “I have a clearly displayed registration sticker in my window, which is legal in lieu of a license plate until I receive my license plates in the mail from the DMV. You don’t have any reasonable suspicion that I’ve committed a crime. You have no reason to suspect that the sticker in my window is expired, therefore you have no reason to stop me.”
- Him: “Sir, I’m going to need to see your license.”
- Me: “No you don’t. This isn’t a legal stop. Just like you can’t pull people over to check their drivers’ license status, you can’t pull people over to check their vehicle registration status in the absence of reasonable suspicion. But, if your purpose is to check whether my car is registered, then you can check the registration sticker, which you’ll see is valid. You don’t need to run my license for that.”
- Him: “If you don’t comply with my orders, I will escalate this situation.”
- Me: “Look, you’re wasting my time, and this is an illegal stop. Go check my registration sticker so I can be on my way.”
- Him: “You need to peel the sticker off and show me.”
- Me: “I’m not going to do that. You can walk around and look at it. It’s clearly visible in the window.”
- Him: “I need to see your license.”
- Me: “Once again, this is an illegal stop. Here’s my license and insurance.”
- *Looks at insurance card*
- Him, sarcastically: “Sir, what kind of car is this?”
- Me: “An Audi.”
- Him: “Uh-huh…and what does this say here?”
- Me: “Infiniti…because that’s my old car, because I just bought this car, exactly like I already told you.”
- Him: “So where’s your insurance for this car?”
- Me: “Do you see the name on that insurance card? That’s my name, yes? I have insurance. My car doesn’t need to be insured so long as I’m insured.”
- Him: “No, you and your car need to be insured.”
- Me: “Do you actually know the law? Because it seems you don’t. Either the car, or the driver need to be insured. Not both. My insurance policy covers me no matter what car I drive, therefore I’m insured. That’s all you need.”
- Him, sarcastically: “Oh, is that so?”
- Me: “Yes. Do you know how law works?”
- Him: “I’ll be back.”
This is the part where he wastes 20 minutes of my time sitting in his car, while another cop stands at my window staring at me the entire time. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he called for backup, so another cop car showed up.
Then you can see what happened in the video. But after that, I dropped off my friend at her apartment, and when I came back to exit her complex, the cop and his buddy were parked next to each other blocking me from leaving, just to be assholes. So I had to turn around and take the back exit.
And this is a lesson to know your rights, because if you don’t, cops will trample all over you. You can’t be afraid to refuse their searches, or to question their reason for detaining you. Always ask, “am I being detained? Am I free to go?” Because the cops will always later claim that they weren’t detaining you and you were free to leave the whole time (a.k.a. that you consented to the encounter), which is almost always a huge LIE.
Although it is worth noting that if I were black, poor, or uneducated, this situation would probably have gone very differently, and that’s probably the worst part.