The Georgia Court of Appeals recently determined that a driver can implicate himself, simply by honestly answering Officer Friendly’s questions.
In State vs. Martin, deputies were responding to a noise complaint from a car. They found the car, parked in a driveway, with Martin and his buddy standing outside it. The deputy asked the men about the loud music and what they were doing. The deputy then asked Martin “if anything was in the vehicle that the deputy needed to know about or be concerned about.” Martin responded, “yes.” When the deputy asked what was in the car, Martin stated that there was “some marijuana and a pipe.” The deputy asked Martin to retrieve the items, and Martin produced a small bag containing a green leafy substance and a glass pipe and placed them on the roof of the vehicle. The officer then arrested Martin for possession of marijuana and possession of a drug-related object.
In this case, the deputy’s inquiry, which Martin was free to decline, does not even rise to the level of requesting consent to search, which itself would have been permitted during a first tier encounter. Merely approaching an individual to request consent to search does not constitute a seizure. Rather than terminate the encounter, as was his right, Martin offered an honest response to the deputy’s question.
What’s the takeaway? Don’t consent to the search. If you’re asked by Officer Friendly if there’s anything in your car he needs to know about, the answer is NO. If Officer Friendly hints that since you have nothing to hide, you certainly don’t mind if he looks in your car, do you? The answer is YES, I DO MIND. NO, YOU MAY NOT LOOK IN MY CAR. I DO NOT CONSENT TO ANY SEARCH OF ME, MY CAR OR MY HOME.
Honesty is the best policy, said Benjamin Franklin. No, it’s not. State v. Martin, A16A0512 decided August 2, 2016.