Pocket Lawyer of Legal First Aid, Black Panther Party (Oakland, 1969)

Legal Rights: Pocket Lawyer of Legal First Aid
From The Black Panther, March 23, 1969

This pocket lawyer is provided as a means of keeping Black people up to date on their rights. We are always the first to be arrested; yet the racist police forces are constantly trying to pretend that rights are extended equally to all people. Cut this out, brothers and sisters, and carry it with you. Until we arm ourselves to righteously take care of our own, the pocket lawyer is what’s happening.

1. If you are stopped and/or arrested by the police, you may remain silent; you do not have to answer any questions about alleged crimes, you should provide your name and address only if requested, although it is not absolutely clear that you must do so. But then do so, and at all times remember the Fifth Amendment.

2. If a police officer is not in uniform, ask him to show his identification. He has no authority over you unless he properly identifies himself. Beware of persons posing as police officers. Always get his badge number and his name.

3. Police have no right to search your car or your home unless they have a search warrant, probable cause, or your consent. They may conduct no exploratory search, that is, one for evidence of a crime generally or for evidence of a crime unconnected with the one you are being questioned about. Thus, a stop for an automobile violation does not give the police the right to search the automobile. You are not required to consent to a search; therefore, you should not consent and should state clearly and unequivocally that you do not consent, in front of witnesses if possible. If you do not consent, the police will have the burden in court of showing probable cause. Arrest may be corrected later.

4. You may not resist arrest forcibly or by going limp, even if you are innocent. To do so is a separate crime of which you can be convicted even if you are acquitted of the original charge. Do not resist arrest under any circumstances.

5. If you are stopped and/or arrested, the police may search you by patting you on the outside of your clothing. You can be stripped of your personal possessions. Do not carry anything that includes the name of your employer or friends.

6. Do not engage in “friendly” conversation with officers on the way to or at the station. Once you are arrested there is little likelihood that anything you say will get you released.

7. As soon as you have been booked, you have the right to complete at least two phone calls—one to a relative, friend, or attorney, the other to a bail bondsman. If you can, call the Black Panther Party, 845-0103 (845-0104), and the Party will post bail if possible.

8. You must be allowed to hire and see an attorney immediately.

9. You neither have to give any statement to the police, nor do you have to sign any statement you might give them, and therefore you should not sign anything. Take the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because you cannot be forced to testify against yourself.

10. You must be allowed to post bail in most cases, but you must be able to pay the bail bondsmen’s fee. If you cannot pay the fee, you may ask the judge to release you from custody without bail or to lower your bail, but he does not have to do so.

11. The police must bring you into court or release you within 48 hours after your arrest, unless the time ends on a weekend or a holiday, and they must bring you before a judge the first day court is in session.

12. If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, immediately ask the police to get you an attorney without charge.

13. If you have the money to hire a private attorney, but do not know of one, call the National Lawyers’ Guild or the Alameda County Bar Association (or the bar association of your county) and ask them to furnish you with the name of an attorney who practices criminal law.