Wanted by the law: me!
March 24, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I think an elderly pedestrian took down my license plate number and reported me to the police. What might happen and what should I do?

First, let me say that I am normally NOT a danger to pedestrians, elderly or otherwise. I try to be a careful and considerate driver.

Driving through a residential area yesterday, I approached a 4 way stop. An elderly man walked up ahead, crossing the side street perpendicular to mine. He reached the curb about the same time I reached the stop sign, and he stood there.

Normally I would have waved at him (or any pedestrian) to, you know, "Go ahead!" But in this case I quickly concluded that he was just standing there, waiting for me to go, and so I pulled out.

Bad decision.

He stepped into the crosswalk just as I hit the gas. He was in NO danger- he was never in front of my car, he was along side it instantly as I accelerated. There was no way that he could have been hit.

Didn't matter. He shouted furiously and shook his fist. I should have stopped to apologize but I was already in the middle of the intersection before I realized what had happened. Also, he was clearly outraged- and was jotting down my license number.

I felt very sorry but also worried- what he was going to do with my tag number- call the police?

Yup, it looks like it. Today I've received 6 or 7 calls, blocked "PRIVATE". Started at 7 a.m. Not even telemarketers call me that early. Somebody knocked on the door a few times this afternoon... I didn't answer. I was supposed to be at work, nobody I know would be dropping by. (As this sounds a little paranoid, let me just note: you don't know my life. These calls and the mid-day knock on the door may have been harmless but were completely out of the ordinary.)

So... assuming that the outraged man did call the police and report me for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk (in Wisconsin), what happens now?

Friends tell me that the police will persist until I answer the phone or the door. If not, a bench warrant will be issued for me. Sound right?

If I do speak to the police, what do I say? Should I tell them what happened and hope they believe me? Should I admit nothing and claim to have no idea what they're talking about and see where this goes? How far can this go? There are no traffic cameras in the area, it's very residential. I do not think there were other witnesses around.

I feel awful about my mistake; but it feels even worse to be waiting for that knock on the door again. What should I do?
posted by GuffProof to Law & Government (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
hmm my thing is would the police really have a blovked number? Also if the knock on the door was the police wouldnt they have shouted that it was the police?
posted by majortom1981 at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2010


I think you're making a much bigger deal out of this than what it is, unless there's something you're not telling us. If a cop *saw* you doing it I don't see how it could be anything much worse than a traffic ticket.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:52 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Looks like the worst that will happen is a sixty-something dollar fine.

You admit that you didn't yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. And you have no idea if these blocked calls are even related. So I say, answer them. If the police want to give you a citation or a ticket, take it. You already know you're in the wrong here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuffProof: “Friends tell me that the police will persist until I answer the phone or the door. If not, a bench warrant will be issued for me. Sound right?”

No. Er... not really.

A bench warrant is generally issued to those found in contempt of court. To do that, you'd have to miss a court date of which you were clearly warned. So I suppose you could get a bench warrant issued to you if you holed up in your house for a few months and continued to refuse to answer the door or the phone, but it would take some serious hermitage. From the sound of things, you might be up to the challenge, but I doubt it.

“If I do speak to the police, what do I say? Should I tell them what happened and hope they believe me? Should I admit nothing and claim to have no idea what they're talking about and see where this goes? How far can this go? There are no traffic cameras in the area, it's very residential. I do not think there were other witnesses around.”

Yes. Tell the police and hope they believe you. What else could you do - lie about it? Hide from them? Your only recourse is to be straightforward and honest. If they simply don't believe you, and legal action goes forward - then you talk to a lawyer. But first, since you probably didn't do anything wrong, just tell the police what happened.

By the way, you're not doing yourself any favors by not talking to whoever it is that's calling you and knocking on your door. It might not get you in trouble, but my experience is that when I avoid these kinds of things (and honestly it's my inclination) I only end up doing what you're doing right now - worrying about who they might be. This is a very, very minor traffic thing. They are very unlikely to arrest you over a tiny infraction like this. This isn't legal advice, but it seems to me that if the police arrested people on the basis of every complaint they got from old guys, they'd probably have the jails full to bursting with ordinary people who haven't done anything wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 4:56 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoops, that's for pedestrians.

But still, I'd own up here. Assuming the calls are even related. And they're probably not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:56 PM on March 24, 2010


Just a quick follow up, to answer your questions-

In my (v. limited, totally non-criminal) experience, yes our local PD does come up as PRIVATE. I have received such calls before at work.

And yup, I realize that I'm not getting hauled off to women's prison for a stop sign incident. It might just be a ticket.

But I don't want a ticket if I can avoid one. I'm a goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen type and having the police looking for me is making me feel ridiculously guilty and nervous.

Thanks for the input though!
posted by GuffProof at 4:57 PM on March 24, 2010


majortom1981: “Also if the knock on the door was the police wouldnt they have shouted that it was the police?”

No. Unless they have a warrant and are supposed to arrest you, cops won't shout "open up, it's the police!" Life isn't a TV show.
posted by koeselitz at 4:58 PM on March 24, 2010


Well -- let's assume the police really do show up. They'll be able to ascertain just by looking in the driveway that you own the car that the man was complaining about. They'll therefore know that you would have driven past him and something happened that made him write down your plate and phone it in. When they ask you what happened they'll probably watch you closely to see if you get nervous, and if you feign ignorance of the whole thing they will probably see the lie in your face. It's your word against his and if it looks like you're covering something up, they'll probably assume you did everything the old man said you did. It seems far better to tell your side of the story -- a simple miscommunication, in which you thought the pedestrian had waived the right of way and thus proceeded -- and accept whatever penalty they choose to impose. Which would likely be a minor traffic violation at worst; there's a good chance they'll just let you off with a warning.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:59 PM on March 24, 2010


GuffProof: “I'm a goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen type and having the police looking for me is making me feel ridiculously guilty and nervous.”

I know exactly how you feel; I'm the same way. Well, I'm not necessarily the "goody-two-shoes" type, in that I'm not really that good, but I get scared and embarrassed about little things like this, and tend to avoid the confrontation.

Really, the best thing to do is bite the bullet and get it over with - believe me, you'll feel better. In fact, I think the best thing you can do would actually be to call the police and ask if there have been any complaints. If they ask you why you're asking, tell them the story: you were driving, and an angry old guy who thought you shouldn't have pulled out wrote down your license plate number. Since he took down your license plate, it's rational that you would call the police and ask if there's a complaint, so don't think you're arousing suspicion by calling it in; it's pretty routine, I think, and to be honest it doesn't sound like you've done anything wrong at all.

And if you just call them, you can stop worrying about what might happen in the future.
posted by koeselitz at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The police are only going to keep looking for you as long as you keep avoiding them. If it is indeed the police. It looks like the penalty is going to be minuscule or nonexistent, and that seems preferable to nervously watching your front door.
posted by hepta at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


And honestly it doesn't sound like you've done anything wrong. Seriously.
posted by koeselitz at 5:05 PM on March 24, 2010


the longer you avoid them, the more they'll think you're avoiding them for a reason.

i'd probably white lie it - "i saw the old dude on the other cross street, i reached the stop sign, stopped, started going, and suddenly crazy dude was yelling and shouting and writing down my license" cop responds "dude said you nearly ran him over" you "nope"
posted by nadawi at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


But I don't want a ticket if I can avoid one. I'm a goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen type and having the police looking for me is making me feel ridiculously guilty and nervous.

Wouldn't a goody two shoes law abiding type just own up and pay the ticket when you may have broken the law?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just tell them your side of the story. For all you know this guy is saying you tried to run him over and he barely jumped out of the way. You're not exactly reassuring the police of your innocence and good intent by avoiding them.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:10 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wouldn't a goody two shoes law abiding type just own up and pay the ticket when you may have broken the law?

What ticket?
posted by The World Famous at 5:23 PM on March 24, 2010


PhoBWanKenobi: I see what you're getting at there. If a citation is issued, I will absolutely pay it. Like I said, I feel awful about this. I am just nervous about being confronted by the police.
posted by GuffProof at 5:23 PM on March 24, 2010


Since they haven't been leaving message saying "this is officer Jones please call now," or announcing themselves at the door, they can't reasonably think you are avoiding them.

Frankly, I doubt the calls and the knocks have anything to do with this: if the police want your attention, they'll let you know pretty clearly. They aren't the sort who are anxious about leaving phone messgaes.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 5:27 PM on March 24, 2010


How on earth can they ticket you for something one old dude CLAIMS you did, with no proof or witnesses?
posted by tristeza at 5:27 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I hate to be one of those posters who follows up with 9,000 addendum comments, but:

I don't have an answering machine, so no messages.
posted by GuffProof at 5:31 PM on March 24, 2010


Never talk to the police unless you absolutely have no choice.

If they are that interested, they can find ways to contact you, at which point you refer them to your attorney. Until then, relax and forget it ever happened. Most likely: nothing whatever will come of this and you're worrying unnecessarily.
posted by VikingSword at 5:32 PM on March 24, 2010 [15 favorites]


Honestly, if this guy reported you, he probably reported six other people this month and the police are sick of him. Just answer the phone and be done with it. It's not the police.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:32 PM on March 24, 2010


You're in a he-said/she-said situation. If an officer didn't see it and there's no physical or photographic evidence, then you have nothing to worry about. I don't even think you need to consider options about cops showing up at this point. </internetlawyer>
posted by crapmatic at 5:35 PM on March 24, 2010


How on earth can they ticket you for something one old dude CLAIMS you did, with no proof or witnesses?

Well they can *ticket* you for anything. A ticket is not an admission of guilt, they tell you that when they sign it. And traffic court is not criminal court, there is no jury and a lesser burden of proof. Theoretically you can appeal and turn it into a "real" trial, if you have enough money and time to waste. In which case, yeah, this would be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. (I think, IANAL)

Frankly, I doubt the calls and the knocks have anything to do with this: if the police want your attention, they'll let you know pretty clearly. They aren't the sort who are anxious about leaving phone messgaes.

Agree with this too. I would say, next time someone rings, answer. If it's the police, 'fess up/ tell your side of the story. Worst case: pay $60 and feel SO much better. If it's a salesman, then the cops aren't after you and you can get on with your life.

Bottom line: anything is better than living in endless fear.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:35 PM on March 24, 2010


GuffProof: “Like I said, I feel awful about this. I am just nervous about being confronted by the police.”

This is called shame, and it's not really healthy. It's keeping you from feeling better about this situation. See – the shame is what makes you want to hide it rather than face up to it and move on. If you just talked to a police officer about this, it probably would have disappeared in a matter of minutes – but instead you've spend hours worrying about it.

Seriously, I really think that you will be happier if you call the police right away and ask if there are any complaints about you. Stop telling yourself the awful things might happen (they really aren't that awful) and get in touch with them and clear this up.
posted by koeselitz at 5:37 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Relax. You are still a good person even if (a) the police are calling and knocking; (b) they talk with you; (c) they actually write you a ticket. So, quit trying to be a *really* good person, and settle for *good* person. Life is messy, and sometimes these things happen. Just treat it as a learning experience and carry on. And finally, remember that the cranky old man is not your father. Or your grandfather.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:38 PM on March 24, 2010


Btw, another possibility is that it *is* the cops, but they just want to give you a warning to placate the old guy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:39 PM on March 24, 2010


Just tell the police what actually happened. You couldn't tell that he was wanting to cross right away. I really doubt the police are going to cite you for that, but even if they did, you could fight it, or you could just pay it. I also seriously doubt they are sending officers TO your house to ask you about something that is just a measly traffic ticket. Unless you live in some small town with no crime and bored cops.
posted by ishotjr at 5:50 PM on March 24, 2010


You are NOT going to get six or seven calls and several knocks on your door about a possible failure to yield from the cops. I don't care how small and bored your police force is.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:58 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Since it's been recommended twice, I thought I'd pop in and strongly discourage phoning the police and volunteering information that could be construed as law-breaking. It could cause you a much bigger headache than you currently have. You made a small error. No one got hurt. You feel embarrassed because an elderly person got mad at you, implied you threatened his safety, and, you think, contacted the police with your licence plate number. It's embarrassing to make a small mistake like this because you think what if you'd hit him, or what if the police saw this as a serious offense? I'd be embarrassed, too. But you'll get over the embarrassment, whether or not the police get involved, whether or not you receive any type of warning or ticket. And, next time, you'll pause longer when you see a pedestrian and aren't sure of his intention to cross.

Answer calls that show up as "private" for the next week or so, just in case the police call to get your side. Either answer honestly (but concisely) or refer them to your attorney. This is not a big deal.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:13 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


(And when I say "your attorney" I don't mean run out and hire one, I mean if you have an attorney for another purpose, or a family member who is an attorney, get in touch with him/her and see if you can or should refer police to him/her.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:14 PM on March 24, 2010


Dude, no cops are going to come and break down your door because some old man said you whiffed him in the crosswalk, unless you live in Mayberry and need to learn an important lesson. Take it from a fellow ostrich, who hides her head in the sand at the slightest indication of self-induced misfortune: just answer the damn phone. It was probably a telemarketer.
posted by sugarfish at 6:22 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do not talk to the police without a lawyer. Sorry, but it is just that simple. Do not. The link above is an excellent eye-opener. Really, no joke, do not call them, do not talk without representation. Yes, you are innocent, it really doesn't matter.

Lawyer talks about why not to talk to police

The other comments about it being innocent, la la la, you have nothing to worry about, are from people with no experience. Trust the extremely experienced lawyer in the link. Watch it, really.
posted by Invoke at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


assuming that things happened the way you said it did, i have three things to say:
first, this person probably calls the police six times a day if they whipped out their pad of paper to write down your license that quickly. the police are probably sick and tired of dealing with them. second, (and i'm in denver so i don't know what happens elsewhere) i took down the license plate of a drunk driver who drove into my business and then got back in their car and drove away. NOTHING ever happened to my knowledge. having a license plate number doesn't mean a thing. three: stop hiding. you haven't done anything wrong. if you do have to talk to the police, tell them your side of the story. you're making yourself sick over nothing.
posted by zoesmom at 6:35 PM on March 24, 2010


You know cranky cops can get even for just a simple welfare check they think is a waste of their time? I doubt they're after you for this. Answer the door and if I'm wrong, send me the check, ok?
posted by arishaun at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2010


Back when I was in elementary school, there was a crossing guard at one of my crosswalks - sweet old, chatty retired guy. Whenever a car drove past that he thought was going above the speed limit, he'd shake his finger at them, and then pretend to write something down on the back of his stop sign, and tell us kids that he hoped he'd scared them into thinking he'd taken their license plate down. I'd be surprised if your guy had time to get out his pen and accurately write down your license, more likely he was just angry at you for scaring him, and was trying to scare you right back. I doubt the phone calls or door knocks are related to the incident, I think maybe you've been Poe-ed
posted by oh yeah! at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


The best answer has already been given. Watch the video that VikingSword and Invoke linked. All the way through. It is really good and important stuff (Cliff Notes: an engaging law professor explains why it is always to your detriment to make voluntary statements to the police without a lawyer, and why it can never be to your benefit).

A policeman may be friendly, but he is never your friend when he is investigating you.
posted by Dimpy at 7:05 PM on March 24, 2010


Answer the phone, not the door. Danger could be at the door, not imminent on the phone. If it is the police, find out what they want. If they are asking questions about the "incident", ask if your responses are on the record. Either way, tell them you do not choose to make a statement at this time. The police can give you a ticket. They cannot convict you. Make your statement to the judge (or mail in a guilty plea) not the police.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:22 PM on March 24, 2010


I'm a goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen type and having the police looking for me is making me feel ridiculously guilty and nervous.

You are not being a goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen. You are being immature, cowardly, and irresponsible right now.

You agree that the most likely outcome is that you will get a ticket. It's a ticket you seem to deserve. Sometimes goody-two-shoes law abiding citizens screw up and do things that earn them tickets. Do you know what goody-two-shoes law abiding citizens do in that situation? They admit their fault, own up to it, accept the ticket and pay it. They don't hide in their house, ignoring phone calls and knocks on the door to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.

My advice: grow up, answer your phone/door, and learn the lesson most of us learned before puberty: hiding from problems very rarely makes them go away.
posted by tastybrains at 8:27 PM on March 24, 2010


If they are asking questions about the "incident", ask if your responses are on the record.

Cops lie all the time!

Don't talk to them. Maybe this is because I'm mixed-race and have seen a lot of sketchy shit from cops, but don't interact with the cops unless you absolutely have to.

The cops are not priests. You don't have to go to them to absolve yourself. Illegal does not mean immoral. If you do have a religious authority, talk to them.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Probably if you're going to get ticketed, they'll mail it to you. Then you can go to court and contest it. I can't imagine cops coming to your house and calling repeatedly over so minor an offense.

However, you may want to contact the police yourself if you have a bit of an unrelated stalker problem there.

Good people sometimes break traffic laws and get tickets. It happens. It's not the end of the world and it's not worth feeling this much shame and fear over.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2010


Do not talk to the police for any reason.
posted by telstar at 1:23 AM on March 25, 2010


hmm my thing is would the police really have a blovked number?

Yes. Last year when some woman thought it would be a brilliant idea to give my phone number to the police as her own, it showed up as "blocked" or "unavailable"
posted by dagnyscott at 5:27 AM on March 25, 2010


I'm guessing nothing comes of this.

Here's my experience:

I kind of cut someone off in traffic once and they wrote down my license plate number and apparently reported me to the police. Weeks later I received a letter by mail saying something along the lines of "your car did something illegal on $date at $intersection. It was reported to the police as unsafe driving. Since we have no way to verify it was you driving your car no action will be taken at this time but we issue this warning..." blah blah blah. I didn't read the rest. In short, no harm, no foul.
posted by citywolf at 7:05 AM on March 25, 2010


Don't forget to update us!
posted by Pomo at 8:14 AM on March 25, 2010


@tastybrains, I agree with you that hiding from problems rarely makes them go away. But, on the same level of truth, one should have as a certainty that "Talking to cops without a lawyer is always bad for you."

Really, watch the video. It can't be any more clear. Yes, the OP may be guilty of a very minor traffic incident. Irrelevant. Until he is contacted formally, the best response is to ignore it. He isn't being a child, he is being smart. What would be stupid would be to make any response at all unless compelled.

The law isn't like on TV. His innocence or lack of harmful intent has little to nothing to do with anything.
posted by Invoke at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


ask if your responses are on the record

There is no such thing as "off the record."

(I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice.)
posted by The World Famous at 9:27 AM on March 25, 2010


Invoke - Really? I've spoken to cops before without a lawyer to no ill effect. I don't share in the paranoia that many of you seem to have about the police, though in full disclosure, it's probably because my dad is a retired NYPD officer. Though, I have never once played that card when being pulled over or having a visit due to an insane downstairs neighbor's complaint.

I think a lot of you tend to forget that police officers are human beings, and while some of them are assholes who are out to get you, most of them are not the racist, power-tripping, lying, conniving jackasses you make them out to be. Most police officers are well aware of the population of elderly complainers who constantly report things to the police, and are annoyed by this, but are still often required to just stop by and check up on the complaints. Typically, they are more sympathetic to the people they have to "check up on" than the person making the complaint, as long as you are polite and not acting sketchy. I see no harm in answering the damn door and being polite.

I am not, however, suggesting that she has to TALK to the police without a lawyer, I am just saying answer the phone/door and be polite, whoever it is. Find out who it is and what they want. But she doesn't even know who is at the door or calling her. It sounds like she even stayed home from work due to fear of being "caught". That is not normal behavior. Answer the door or look out the peephole to even see if it is the police, or answer the phone to find out who it is. You don't need to comment on the situation, at that point you can call a lawyer. But, Jesus Christ, to say that OP's behavior is anything commendable or normal is insane. And for OP to insist that she is a goody-two shoes is total crap, because hiding from your own doorbell and telephone for fear of a ticket is acting sketchy, plain and simple.

Also, OP, maybe now is a good time to invest in an answering machine or voicemail service so you don't need to play this game anymore?
posted by tastybrains at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2010


At any rate, because debating whether the police are evil or not is really besides the point, my real suggestion for the OP is a combination of the two most popular forms of advice on AskMe:

Call a lawyer AND a therapist. Win-win.
posted by tastybrains at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2010


I don't share in the paranoia that many of you seem to have about the police, though in full disclosure, it's probably because my dad is a retired NYPD officer.

Ask your dad what you should do if you are questioned by the police. As him if, when the police tell someone that anything they say can and will be used against them, they are lying.
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2010


The World Famous - I've had this conversation with my dad plenty of times. His guidelines are to always be polite and respectful. My dad would emphatically NOT advise me to avoid answering my fucking door and phone altogether.

Again, I was not saying that OP should discuss the situation with a police officer. I was saying that she needs to fucking answer the door or phone to find out who is trying to get in touch with her and why. If it winds up being a police officer (and it very well may not be), then she could be polite and contact a lawyer before discussing the situation (if that is even what they are trying to get in touch about).

However, I have given it some serious thought, and have decided that I was wrong. I've decided that the best course of action is really to keep avoiding the phone and door, and to constantly look over your shoulder because the police might be waiting to issue you a ticket. The police are probably waiting to haul you out of your house for running a stop sign and have the training, energy, and desire to trick you into confessing horrible crimes you didn't commit. They are probably bored and need something fun to do.
posted by tastybrains at 10:49 AM on March 25, 2010


@tastybrains, I'm glad that you have had good experiences with police. However, I'm really having a hard time understanding why the sarcasm is necessary.

Nowhere have I argued that being polite is a bad idea. All I am saying is that for everyone's benefit, lawyers need to be involved every time you talk to police when you are potentially cast as a suspect.

I am not implying that your father was a bad person, or that all cops are bad people. I too have had good experiences with police as well (although as a victim, not a suspect), no joke. Really, watch the video, where is it wrong? Note the fact that a police chief speaks after and reluctantly agrees with the advice.

From that video and my own experience, I am simply saying that it is a mistake to talk to cops (especially from the position of a suspect) without a lawyer present. I believe my standpoint is reasonable, and the best for the majority of citizens.

Obviously, avoiding the door and all calls is strange. The OP should answer the door, if it is a police officer, he or she should state that he or she does not wish to make a statement without legal representation. Done. No impoliteness, nothing crazy. The police will find this normal and routine.
posted by Invoke at 11:28 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh boy.

Well, this sure went all sorts of wrong.

That's on me- In reading back I see how I phrased things poorly and really didn't convey an accurate image of myself or my objective in either resolving this situation or in posting this question.

*with sincerity* I'm sorry, I made a hash of this.

All I really hoped for were a few real-life examples of similar situations where someone had their plates phoned in and could tell me what might happen next.... maybe some tips on what to say or what not to say to law enforcement. Assuming they were even called.

Now I'm a coward and full of crap and a wacko who never answers her phone or door, dodging paying for my crime. I really came off poorly here, my fault.

Thank you all who wrote supportive comments and words of advice. I want to do the right thing and I will take responsibility. I know there was nothing in my post to suggest this. I was just embarrassed and panicky-feeling yesterday, I have never been in a situation like this.

Thanks also to those who posted the video. It was highly informative.

If I am contacted, I will be cautious but honest; if a red flag flashes and it seems like I should shut up and go look for an attorney, that's what I'll do, but I have no qualms about paying a fine if issued a citation. I wouldn't fight the ticket, I will accept the consequences.

Thanks again for those with kind words and helpful advice.
posted by GuffProof at 2:12 PM on March 25, 2010


The OP should answer the door, if it is a police officer, he or she should state that he or she does not wish to make a statement without legal representation. Done. No impoliteness, nothing crazy. The police will find this normal and routine.

I completely agree. I guess my interpretation of some of the advice in this thread, including your response to my initial post, was that "talking to the police" included saying "Hello, who's there?" at the door or phone.

I do not think she should break into a confessional about what happened. I do think contacting a lawyer before discussing it at all (if that's even what they are after) is the smart thing to do. But I do think she needs to answer the door/phone and find out who is there and what they are calling/stopping by about. And I think all of the responses about *never* speaking to a police officer are likely to only increase the fear of facing this issue so it can be dealt with and put aside.

Because, in reality, there is not a really awesome reason to be terrified of the police in situations like this. What do you suppose would happen if she answered the phone and it was a police officer? At worst, they would ask her to come down to the station. I mean, they can't haul her to jail over the phone, right? At that point, she could call a lawyer to accompany her. More likely, they are calling or stopping by to say "Hi, we had a complaint about xyz, and we have to check up on it. Please yield to pedestrians from now on. If we saw you do that, we'd have to give you a ticket."

And that's assuming it's even the police at all.
posted by tastybrains at 2:22 PM on March 25, 2010


tastybrains: "I completely agree. I guess my interpretation of some of the advice in this thread, including your response to my initial post, was that "talking to the police" included saying "Hello, who's there?" at the door or phone. "

Yeah, it probably wouldn't hurt for her to say hello, of course a lot people aren't able to effectively and assertively say, once a cop is looking them in the face, "No, I won't talk to you about that".

There is also a huge disconnect in your perspective of cops vs mine, and mine vs others'. I have a lot of cops in my family and in the same branch of the family I have had people be harassed, arrested for no reason, humiliated, etc. by the police out of nowhere for no reason. On the other (white) side of the family, police are a great resource when you have problems. No one has ever been harassed by them, they have always been polite when giving tickets, etc. People come from different places and I don't think anyone was trying to imply that all cops are horrible people, just that from our perspective it's better to avoid interacting with them in their official capacity if at all possible. I think, considering that they have guns, tasers, the power to arrest you and harass you, etc. that it's not an unreasonable position to take.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:57 PM on March 25, 2010


I never answer the phone. If the issue is important, people will show up at my house and let themselves in. Anything else is not worth worrying about.

I have been investigated by the Secret Service before. When the detectives called me, their caller ID was not blocked, and they clearly stated who they were on my answering machine. (Turns out that scheduling an appointment with detectives is easy. "Should I come down to your office?" "No, we'll come see you." )

(And why was I investigated by the Secret Service? A slashdot comment. If you are posting anything to the Internet, do it with Tor. It will save you a lot of trouble.)
posted by jrockway at 6:14 AM on March 26, 2010


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