Positive GA Leo Encounter


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I have been sitting here reading about good and bad LEO encounters and it encourages me to share my own. My own happened about 6 ago. The night the war in Iraq started to be exact. Back in those days I was all about the import lifestyle so I was driving a black Honda Civic with modified head and tail lights. The car had high profile tires and rims. You know the style:) Well on this particular night I was driving from my home in SC to FL to visit family. It was about 9:30 pm and I was on I-95 in GA. I passed about 3 GA State Troopers parked in the median. Being a lead footed 24 year old I looked down at my odometer and was slightly terrified to see that I was traveling at 80 mph in a 70 mph zone. I was not surprised when I saw one turn on his headlights and pull out behind me. At first I was very relieved as he looked as if he was going to go right by me, but then my heart sank as he braked hard and pulled in behind me. He followed me for what seemed like miles. I felt I was going to get pulled over so I started slowing down. Sure enough he lit me up and I pulled over. As soon as I stopped, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my license. I do know now that slowing down as much as I did and also reaching for my license probably made me seem more suspicious. At the time I was thinking I was making it easier for the officer by slowing down and being prepared to hand him my information. The officer comes to my window and introduces himself and asks if I know why I am being pulled over. I had always been told not to admit guilt so I said, "No sir." To my astonishment he says, "Sir your front right headlight is out." I actually had no clue that this had happened. Everything was fine with the car when I first started out. Also, I had fog lights on my car which were turned on and compensated for the headlight being out, so i was not aware of any reduction in visibility. He tells me that he is using the headlight as PC for stopping me. He asks if I minded stepping out of the vehicle. I comply. He asks if I mind being searched, I comply. He then asks the line, "are there any drugs, guns, explosives in the vehicle?" At this point I remember that I have a Smith & Wesson .32 revolver in the glove compartment. I inform him I do have a revolver in the compartment. He tells me to stand in front of his car while he retrieves it. The gun is loaded with protection ammo. He begins asking me questions about the gun, where I got it, why I am carrying it, do I have a permit. At this point I am thinking the worst. I bought it from an older gentleman I worked with and realized at this point i have no clue where he got it. I do not have a permit and I have realized possibly a little too late than I may not be transporting the gun legally in GA. I do explain this to the officers and he tells me I was not transporting illegally which is a relief. He does finish his search on my car with my consent. He tells me he can tell the gun had been shot recently, basically questioning why. I inform him a friend of mine was a LEO in NC and I had been shooting with him recently. The officer has been very polite and professional throughout the entire encounter but there is a noticeable relaxation in the rest of his dealing with me. Surprisingly enough, he returns the gun to me even though he was never able to locate the serial number of the gun to run it. Turns out when the original owner replaced the grips on the handle the serial number was covered. The officer told me the reason he pulled me over was 95 was a major drug corridor up and down the east coast and I fit the profile. He returned my gun and sent me on my way only informing me to get my headlight fixed. I have to say this officer handled me very well I think considering not only was I speeding, but also I probably did everything wrong in how I handled myself.

The officer is not supposed to ask you if you have a firearm in the vehicle, nor is he permitted to retrieve it without a warrant. The glove box, under GA law, is considered an extension of your home. Even if you state you have a gun in it, he'd have to have PC to suspect that you were actually a criminal, more than just a profile, to search it. None of what you describe would provide him probable cause.

While the officer could have detained you to get a warrant, it is incredibly unlikely that he'd have gotten one. Only your consent allowed him to do so.

While I would not have granted consent, I will always inform an officer if he asks, even if doing so is improper. I had a very similar encounter about a year ago over a broken headlamp. The officer did not ask to search my car, but did ask if I had any weapons in the car. I told him I had four long-arms in the trunk (they belonged to a friend who had recently attempted suicide) and two pistols in the glove box, which he instructed me to not approach. After the stop, he thanked me for being open about the firearms.

Transportation of a loaded firearm in the glove box in the state of Georgia is not a crime, unless you are restricted from firearms ownership. I believe that recently enacted, all law-abiding were permitted to carry loaded in the cab.
Thank you for that information. I did not know that. I just thought it best to cooperate and I was elated that I was not getting a speeding ticket. Once I realized that, having the vehicle searched was not even an inconvenience to me .
not a bad encounter... if it had been a different officer with a slightly different way of thinking it could have turned out a bit different. glad everything went ok.
The truth is definitely subjective.....

It just goes to show that one man's garbage is another man's gold.

Your example, for me, is definitely NOT a positive example. You had an LEO who had the legal right to make a traffice stop (speeding, headlight) and used that leverage to gain consent for a couple of "fishing trips" (consent granted search of person or vehicle, in LEO parlance). Granted, because you gave consent, no law was broken (except his asking if you had a firearm).

Personally, I would rather pay a speeding ticket and a ticket for a broken headlight (with the money spent on rims, you obviously had the cash) and keep a tight hold on my liberties. Of course, your motivations six years ago, when you were 24, are probably much different than now, at 30.:biggrin:

The one lesson that I hope you learned was to always research your route when taking a trip (in fact, I would print the relevant gun laws for each state traveled through, as well as the interstate rule) so that you can prevent breaking the law during your trip. That way, when asked an uncomfortable (and potentially incriminating) question regarding what you have in your possession, your honest response will be "Sir (or Ma'am), I do not have any material that is not legal for me to possess."

Notice the way that statement is phrased? Practice it, and use it. Never give permission to search your person or your vehicle. If an officer has documentable probable cause, he or she will not bother asking for your permission. If they start an illegal search, politely remind them that you do not consent to a search, but do not resist. After the encounter, document the encounter while the memories are fresh (important!), find some legal counsel, and file a complaint. That way they will think twice about attempting to abrogate someone else's rights.
I genuinely had no idea that GA officers are not supposed to ask if there is a firearm in the vehicle. That is good to know. Now I am a little older and wiser from what I was then. I do not speed as much, have all my lights working, and do not have a car that draws as much attention to myself.

I appreciate all the feedback. It has given me a new way to look at this encounter. I am starting to see it more as an officer taking advantage of naive kid's ignorance of the law to do a search instead of a friendly LEO encounter. I also appreciate the advice and will bear it in mind if there is another encounter. Hopefully there will not be. I have made it almost 4 years now without even a traffic stop.
Proper response to an attempted fishing expedition during a Terry Stop:

"My name's not Lake, so you're going to go fishing here."

Note: Doesn't really work if you're actually at a lake.

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