“Can Police Do That?” Part Two: Arrests and Seizures


In the second of their four-part lecture series on constitutional rights during interactions with the police, Murfreesboro defense attorneys Scott and Richard Kimberly attempted to clarify the rights a person has while being detained by police.

The Kimberlys define “seizure” as a “restriction of your right to leave.” The two most common types of seizure are a “Terry stop” and an arrest. A Terry stop is detainment based off of reasonable suspicion during which you can only be held until the purpose of the stop is completed (i.e. a traffic violation only gives police the right to hold you until the ticket is written). An arrest is custody by the police based off of probable cause, at which point your fifth amendment and Miranda Rights become crucial, the attorneys explained.

“(Your rights when seized by the police) boil down to this: one question, two answers,” Scott said. “When you ask an officer, ‘Am I under arrest?’ he can say one of two things: One, ‘No’, at which point you say ‘I want to leave’.  If he says ‘yes’ then you say ‘I want a lawyer’ and then don’t answer any of his questions.”

Scott and Richard broke down the fifth amendment and what it means if you should end up in a non-voluntary conversation with the police. The often-repeated “right to remain silent” is misquoted, they said. In reality, you have the right to withhold any information that is self-incriminating, including speech, searches and even field sobriety tests.

“Don’t do it backwards,” Richard said. “If you forfeit information and agree to do field tests, but then refuse a blood test when you get to the station, you’re done.”

Both Scott and Richard elaborated on an idea they focused on in their previous lecture on traffic stops: do not surrender any information voluntarily, because if the police can get it lawfully, they will.

“If you let (a police officer) search without a warrant or volunteer information, all you’re doing is his job for him,” said Richard. “(A policeman during a seizure) is not your buddy and his job is not to prove you’re innocent…so don’t give him the words that he’ll use to convict you.”

Richard continued.

“Silence is never misquoted.”

Scott underlined the importance of legal understanding by adding, “(We’re) not trying to make (the police force’s) job hard; I really respect what they do. While you are no match for a trained police officer in a stop, a trained police officer is no match for (a lawyer) in a court room.”

The series will continue Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in the Cason-Kennedy nursing building Room N 119 until April 7.

For more information about “Can Police do That?” click here.

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