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What are the rights on this? Can someone lawfully be approached?

Reading, PA |

Suppose it's about 11:30PM-midnight-ish. Someone (an adult BTW) is merely sitting out in THEIR yard on THEIR property of the home THEY own. A cop is driving by, he stops to "see if everything is ok" you tell him yes. He asks to identify yourself, which you do. Then after all this is collected the officer STILL stays and continues to question this home owner, he evn asks if its ok to pat them down "for their safety", this person wants to know why and what they've done, no complaints were called in, nothing was being done but this person sitting outside their home at night. What rights does the hoe owner have? When does this person have the right to walk away or ask the cop to leave? And did the officer have any right to go beyond the initial stop of "are you ok" and asking for ID?

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

Agree with Forest Morgan that you are not obligated to talk to law enforcement other than identify self. Also, not sure why the officer entered upon your property. Fortunately sounds as though no arrest.

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Posted

We're not sure why either. He was just driving by and then decided to pull over on the shoulder of the round and get out of his car and ask if everything was ok. Then he did an identification check where the officer now stepped onto our property. After this is where the pat down "for his safety" occured as well as further questioning. The officer apparently found it "odd someone was sitting outside it the rain (it was a VERY light mist and the homeowner is a fisherman/hunter not odd for him at all) at that time of night (homeowner works 3rd shift, this is his schedule)." We justdidnt find this gave the officer the right to probe as he did even tho nothing came out of it. We basically wanted to be clear of rights as we also believe after ID was established the officer should have left. Thank you for you input! :) VERY helpful and exactlythe knowledge we were looking for. :)

Robert H. Hanaford

Robert H. Hanaford

Posted

You are welcome and it is good to know as an attorney I am able to help someone across the country along with other concerned lawyers as Bill Jones and Forest Morgan. As an aside, I have a local office in a small town 50 miles Northwest of Chicago. I stopped their this past Thursday evening at about 10:00 p.m. and left the parking lights on my car in my parking lot. The local police knocked on the office door to see if OK. I just considered it a social visit, but even us lawyers are not immune. Enjoy what is left of the weekend gentlemen.

Posted

You always have the right to walk away or ask the officer to leave unless/until you are subject to an investigative detention/arrest. However, this line is not clearly drawn and, in most cases, the ambiguity favors the law enforcement officer. In addition, unless this is a nightly occurrance or you are charged/arrested for something, there is really no remedy.

As a general rule, if you are approached by law enforcement and you do not wish to continue the conversation, you should orally inform the officer clearly and unequivocally that you do not wish to engage in further conversation. You may even inquire if the officer is either investigating an incident. If not, then you may feel free to return inside of your home.

During a consensual encounter, the officer may ask for your identification and pat you down for their safety.

It is NEVER in your best interest to argue or physically resist the officer, nor would be wise to attempt to leave if the officer informs you that you are subject to an investigation or arrest. If you are arrested illegally, a good defense attorney can assist you.

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Posted

Thank you for the taking to reply. No arrest was made. The pat down was VERY offensive to this person who felt their rights were violated, ESP after the identification check to prove they are who they say they are and they do live there. This question was merely to address rights so IF it happens again or anything like this happens they as well as everyone else, would know what actions to take and what rights we have. This was VERY helpful. :) again, thank you for your time and enjoy the remainder of your weekend! :)

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Rixon Charles Rafter III

Posted

Good counsel.

Posted

From the facts set forth, this is what is termed a "mere encounter" between police officer and citizen. While it requires no particular justification for its initiation by the officer, it permissibly lasts only so long as the citizen permits its continuation. While your presence on your own property at the time makes the additional investigative steps more intrusive, the "mere encounter" scenario could occur anywhere. Providing a police officer with basic biographical information (name, address, and identification) is always a wise response to avoid escalation of an encounter, NO other information or cooperation is required and should be withheld unless you are CERTAIN that there is no risk involved in providing more. You are not required to consent to a search of your person, vehicle, or house; and your are not required to answer questions about ANYTHING if you so choose. In your specific situation it would have been perfectly appropriate for you to have politely declined any further interaction and ask that he/she leave. Since you do not reveal that anything of significance came of this encounter, I can't comment further. If criminal charges resulted from the incident, you should obtain the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney without delay.

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Posted

Thank you for taking the time to answer. Nothing came of the stop. No arrests or fines or anything, just the hoeowner felt their rights were violated by the pat down. Esp AFTER identification was made and it was made known this WAS the person and their home. I posted merely to ask what rights we have and what we could/when we could do it in the event this happens again. :) your reply was VERY helpful and I appreciate the time you took to reply! :) enjoy the remainder of your weekend :)

William A. Jones Jr.

William A. Jones Jr.

Posted

Thank you for your kind words, and you are most welcome.

Posted

Sounds like the copy is suspicious of someone sitting in the front yard at midnight, probably in an area of known drug activity or past break-ins. You should actually be pleased the cops are checking to see that someone sitting in your front yard at that time has permission and is not a "lookout" for some hoodlum doing something illegal inside. If you were armed, there would be even more cause for concern. You have a choice in these situations, tell the copy to get lost unless he has a warrant and make him mad and likely watch you more closely in the future or cooperate and demonstrate you have nothing to hide. Most people choose to cooperate and are pleased the cop is watching their property. If you are a woman and the cop is male, then the pat down request is totally out of line unless there is more to this [and there always is, it seems] and you should report him to his supervisor.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

first line "copy" should be "cop".

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Posted

Thank you for the reply :) I made this post on behalf of the person who went thru this. They were fine w/the stopping and asking if everything was ok, the part that made them feel violated was the pat down after identifcation was presented. (they are a male as was the officer) the questions continued and he just felt violated after it was all said and done so I made this post more or less just trying to see for future reference at what point the homeowner could've stopped the event and had the officer leave. Thank you for your reply :) it was very helpful. The homeowner works a late shift and was sitting in the yard, smoking a ciggarette, minding his own biz. No weapons or anything were found and nothing was cited or warned or anything... The only reason the cop seemed to stop was because he was outside at night it seems... We are thankful to have someone looking out, but the pat down seems not needed. Thanks again for your time and advice, next time he will know his rights :) enjoy the rest of your weekend!

William A. Jones Jr.

William A. Jones Jr.

Posted

With this comment I mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr. Burdick, but I just could not let your response go with no comment. The officer's motivation in the incident described may well have been praiseworthy as suggested. The time and context may have given rise to a legitimate concern on the officer's part. Engaging the homeowner in a brief conversation to allay or confirm his suspicions would accordingly have been entirely appropriate. Conducting a pat-down was, with the facts presented, completely out of bounds. A Terry-type search is NOT justified upon the subjective concern for officer safety presented by these facts. Specific, articulable FACTS warranting reasonable suspicion that the subject is armed IS REQUIRED. Our guesses on this are likely different, but my guess is that the officer here had none. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protect ALL citizens from unreasonable searches. When the citizen does not understand their most basic and fundamental rights where the state seeks to intrude, the first line of defense of those rights fails. The concept of "demonstrat[ing] you have nothing to hide" by relinquishing your rights is a very dangerous course to pursue, and it is frankly the linchpin for unjustified police/citizen encounters. Police have lots of legitimate and effective ways to do their work of protecting us from criminal activity. Violating basic constitutional rights is not one of them. From a young age I made certain my children understood their rights with respect to law enforcement officers and the importance to society of law that they not only know their rights but know how to assert them in a calm and respectful manner. I encourage ALL citizens, the innocent and the guilty to do likewise.

Posted

While I agree with the answers given (you are free to walk away; you may be required to identify yourself in certain circumstances), I think it is perfectly permissible to identify yourself as the homeowner, and then require the officer to remove himself from your premises.

This answer is not a substitute for consulting with and retaining the services of an attorney for your legal needs. By providing this answer, I am not entering into an attorney client relationship with you.

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Posted

Thank you for taking the time to reply! :) exactly the type of response I needed to gain a better understanding of the rights available given the circumstances. I appreciate your effort in posting a response. Very helpful. :)

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