Kurt Kerns, Attorney at Law
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A boy scout with a map

Knowing your rights is typically a good thing. However, it is important to understand that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing. The old saying describing someone as being like a boy scout with a map, suggests that overconfidence provided by some kernel of knowledge can lead to disaster, i.e. becoming lost.

In the same way, when interacting with the police, understanding your constitutional rights is generally a good thing. Knowing when to stop talking, and understanding that if you have been arrested, the more you speak with the police the more likely it is that you could damage your defense, are good things to understand.

Directly contradicting an explicit command of a police officer, even if the officer has overstepped their legal authority may not be a wise decision. They carry a gun and are authorized by the state of Kansas to use it.

A case from Michigan tragically illustrates this issue. A 17-year old saw what he believed to be a car with high-beams approaching and apparently flashed his headlights to alert the other driver to that fact.

The other driver, however, did not have his high-beams on, and also happened to be a county sheriff's deputy. He stopped the teenager and an encounter began that ended with the officer's face bloodied and the 17-year-old dead, shot by the officer, who claimed self-defense.

The boy believed he did not have to turn over his driver's license when the officer asked. This was wrong, and incident deteriorated from there, ending with the officer shooting the boy after being punched in the face and claiming he feared for his life.

Source: washingtonpost.com, "Mistake over high beams ends with Michigan cop killing teen," Radley Balko, June 22, 2015

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