The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Ask Ali: Legally Misinformed

Dear Ali,

I was recently falsely accused of a crime. I was hanging out in a park, innocently eating ice cream with my friends, when a cop came. He accused us of trespassing. Apparently, this open public area, where everyone can play and enjoy the nice weather, “closes” at sunset, though there was no sign to say so, and therefore I was issued a written warning. The general subtext was, “We, the National Capital Park Police, believe you were doing illicit drugs in this park, but we have no proof, so we will make up a fake offense.” The cop searched us and looked in our cars and it really freaked me (and my parents) out. One of my friends acted pretty sassy back to the cop, and we didn’t really know our rights; I was just wondering if you had any advice if this happens again.

Sincerely,

Legally misinformed

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Dear Legally misinformed,

You’ve come to the right place. I intern at the State’s Attorney’s Office, and I do Mock Trial (Team Schwartz!), so I have a bit of knowledge about students’ rights. The first thing you should know is that a lot of what the police do is based on consent. They will ask “Can I search you?” or “Can we come inside your house?” but you have to remember that you have the right to politely say no. It is never a good idea to be sassy; this is the policeman’s job, and s/he doesn’t know you, so you might as well make a good impression. You don’t want to appear condescending, but you are allowed to assert your rights. Also, while the police are allowed to look at anything in plain view, they are not allowed to search (i.e. enter) your car or your house without consent or probable cause. Just as a warning – the smell of marijuana is probable cause to search. The most important thing to remember is to remain coherent and considerate. You don’t want to be the kid who received a citation for being rude.

Sincerely,

Ali

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