Ever since the Supreme Court recently ruled that a suspect must speak up to invoke his or her right to be silent, I’ve been mulling over whether I should start carrying a Miranda rights card a friend gave to me last year.

The card essentially states that the person (suspect) who hands this card to the police officer is invoking his or her Miranda rights to remain silent, to an attorney, to not be questioned without the presence of an attorney, to secure his/her belongings (if I am to be taken into custody) before being arrested, and more.

I’ve been raised in a culture that teaches its children to trust the police. We’ve been taught they are our friends.

While the police are to be respected and treated as such for they carry out a very important role,  it is even more important to protect yourself from being charged, and even convicted, for a crime you did not commit. Those rights are just as important even if you did commit a crime. You should know your rights, including what the police are allowed to do to you or tell you while in custody and how long they may hold you without charging you with a crime.

The police have a duty to assume you are guilty until proven innocent because their job is to find criminals and get confessions.

I was riding with a friend a few weeks ago when we were pulled over.  My friend offered to let the police search the vehicle — thankfully they did not search the vehicle.

In the moment, it seemed like the right thing to do, especially since it caught the police off guard and probably led to them letting us go. But in retrospect, no matter how innocent we were (and we were), it is my belief that we should not have given up those rights so easily.

Innocent people have been known to be convicted, even executed, and later found innocent thanks to DNA tests alone.

According to the Innocence Project, there have been more than 250 post-conviction exonerations in the US due to DNA tests.   Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the US after serving time on death row.

Even more shocking is a list of 138 people who were sentenced to death and their conviction was either subsequently overturned and they were acquitted or all charges were dropped.  Some people on the list were given an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of innocence. The list runs from the early 1970s through November 2009. Also, more than a dozen people who have been executed were later found to be innocent.

These facts make it clear that our court system is unable to make an accurate determination in every case as to the innocence or guilt of a suspect.

Here are links to two sites where they have printable cards to hand to police if arrested or pulled over.

http://www.norml.org/pdf_files/freedom_card.pdf

http://blog.motorists.org/wp-content/uploads/aor.pdf

It might be wise to have a copy of one of these laminated and in your wallet and a second copy in your glove compartment paper clipped to your registration.

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