By Yutthachai Sangsirisap and Robert Virasin
There are plenty of stories about bad police planting evidence or fake police shaking down the innocent. What to do if someone claiming to be a police officer wants to search your person or belongings?
The primary duty of the police is to protect people and property and to enforce laws. When a crime occurs, they have to investigate the crime to ensure justice by catching criminals. Under Thai law, the police officer has the right to search people and property to prevent or solve a crime. When a police officer acting in a lawful manner requests to search you, you must comply. However, there are certain things one can do.
First, ask to see the officer’s identification to ensure he is an actual officer. If you believe that he is not an actual police officer, then shout for the attention of people around you so they can act as your witness. If the officer is a fraud, they may be able to assist you.
Second, during the search, you have the right to record the whole process as long as you do not interfere with it. With everyone carrying handheld video cameras in the form of their smartphones, this should be an easy thing to do. However, if the police find contraband, the video can be used as evidence against you.
Third, you can ask the police officer to empty his shirt and trouser pockets and to clear anything that may be hidden up his sleeves before the search begins. This will help to alleviate concerns that he may plant some evidence against you. If the police officer refuses to empty his pockets before the search, you may have grounds for suspicion and may consider requesting additional witnesses before the inspection.
Fourth, if the officer has found something that does not belong to you, do not touch the item and do not admit that the object is yours. If possible, take a photo of the object and contact your family and close friends. If you do not already have the name of a criminal attorney, then ask your family or friends to locate one to assist you.
Fifth, avoid signing any documents. If the police tell you that you must sign, please read it carefully. If you do not understand the document, find someone you trust to translate it for you. Do not rely on the police to translate the document. If the document is not accurate, do not sign it. If the document is not fully completed or is blank, do not sign it. If you agree with the document, initial every page before signing it to prevent someone from switching a page.
In our line of work, we have had many clients who have been victims of false criminal charges. The police have a right to search your person and property as part of their law enforcement duties. But people have intrinsic rights to protect themselves from bad or fraudulent police officers. Be diligent when someone claiming to be a police officer wants to search you or your property.
Robert R. Virasin is a licensed U.S. Attorney who has handled criminal immigration waivers and Yutthachai Sangsirisap is a licensed Thai Attorney who has represented many individuals in criminal court. They can be reached at [email protected] or via www.virasin.com.