Know your rights.

So, so far today, I’ve been discussing a couple different cases regarding police activity, and ensuring your civil rights are not violated. First was the case of Deven Guilford, a 17 year old in Michigan who was shot and killed by a Sherriff’s Deputy following a very minor traffic infraction.

Next up was an incident from a couple years ago with an unruly passenger resisting arrest by Sherriff’s Deputies aboard a US Airways flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Charlotte.

(NSFW Language)


Law enforcement officers must have an articulable, reasonable suspicion that you have, are, or are about to commit a crime to detain you. That’s a far lower bar than the level of probably cause required to arrest you.

But here is the critical thing to remember should you wish to exercise your rights in an encounter with law enforcement.

The police are under absolutely no obligation to articulate that reasonable suspicion to you. They have to be able to articulate it to the court.

In the case of Deven Guilford, the Sherriff’s Deputy did in fact explain his grounds f0r detaining him. Just because Guilford didn’t like that reason, didn’t magically give him a right to ignore that. His mistake led to him making increasingly poor choices that lead to his own death.

Let’s talk a bit about the horrible woman on the airplane, as airlines are a special circumstance, and you should understand your rights.

To wit- you have none.

An airline has absolutely no obligation to actually allow you to fly. They can deny you service for any reason at all.  And federal law makes it a  crime to fail to follow the instructions of cabin crew. If the flight attendant tells you to hop on one foot and cluck like a chicken, well get hopping and clucking.

In this case, Ms. Bien-aime was told to turn off her cell phone. She apparently failed to do so after repeated instructions, leading the Captain to make the decision to return to the gate and ask for her removal. That’s entirely proper and within the scope of the airline’s authority.

Note, generally, airlines simply deny service. They don’t usually press charges, as it is inconvenient for them. In this case, the deputies ask, repeatedly for Ms. Bien-aime to leave the aircraft. That would have been the end of the incident. But she somehow thought she had a right to stay aboard, and force the airline to explain why she was being removed. And that stubborn refusal to abide by what the law actually says, and not her mistaken appreciation of it led, again, to  an increasingly poor series of choices that led to her arrest on multiple charges, including resisting arrest with violence.

Know your rights, know the law, and remember, the time to actually fight for your rights is in the courtroom, armed with a lawyer, not in public against someone armed with a gun.

5 thoughts on “Know your rights.”

  1. Be it airliner or cruise ship, once you’ve left the dock the Captain is God. Listen to and obey the Captain.

    1. What I tell my students and passengers is that the pilot is the King of the Airplane and All who Dwell Within.

  2. Any time I’ve been stopped by police, no matter what the reason, I have always tried to present as bland and polite an image as possible, no matter how much I actually resented it.

    Because you’re dealing with an armed agent of the government that might be having a really shitty day, and things are only going to get worse if you insist on pressing buttons and hollering about your “rights.” The police might totally be in the wrong but that’s something for your lawyer to sort out once things calm down. Getting shot because you can’t follow simple orders at a traffic stop is a truly stupid way to die and I can’t muster even a little sympathy for that guy in Michigan.

    Life isn’t a video game, kids, and there ain’t no reset button if you do something utterly brainless….

    1. All good common sense advice, and I’ve heard the same from my older brother, a police officer, since I was a teenager. But damn if sometimes the sense of injustice doesn’t override that “good advice” in the heat of the moment.

      Once you submit and are cuffed, you turn into a punching bag. No amount of harsh words from a judge after the fact equates with giving the union thug a swollen face when you have the chance. Not saying its okay to go around thumping on cops, but police departments develop reputations just like any organization. Things are known in a neighborhood. These events don’t occur in a vacuum. Having retrieved my share of Marines from custody beaten all to shit, it becomes real obvious to tell when a “fight” occurred – before or after the cuffs were on.

      Legal or not, sometimes what is right becomes the most important issue in the moment. Leaving the bad guy with a bloody nose is the most justice you can expect to get in the situation, so you take it.

  3. This is a little long but I have a story that bears on this.
    As far as Deven Guillford, that was a lack of education. He was 17 which means he had his license for maybe a year. Probably this was his first traffic stop. Without a doubt the cop was a dick for pulling multiple cars over for flashing their lights at him; his headlights needed to be adjusted and he should have taken care of it. So he was wrong – but as Pave Low says, he’s got the gun so be nice, be polite and avoid any confrontation.

    I own and operate a small limo/car service. About a year ago, leaving home I got to the end of our little country road and turned onto what in Texas is a Farm to Market Road driving a black Mercedes sedan with dark windows. Where I turned is a county courthouse annex and a deputy was sitting behind it. About two miles up the FM road he came up behind and lit me up; when he came to my door I just handed him the vehicle log book containing all the stuff they want to see along with my CHL. He told me I had failed to signal my turn from the county road to the FM road. I told him I thought I did but I could have been wrong. He went back to his car, ran everything and discovered I’m an upstanding citizen and gave me a warning for failing to signal a turn and told me to have a nice day.

    Here’s the rest of the story. This deputy has just moved out from the big city to the country. He didn’t see a turn signal because he didn’t see anything. I blew through the stop sign when I made the right turn as I’ve done the last 20 years. A cop friend told me a few days later that the deputy was on a fishing expedition and trying to find anything to justify sitting out in the woods.

    The airline passenger? Throw her ass out on the tarmac.

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