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Police inspections – What are your rights?

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By Yutthachai Sangsirisap and Robert Virasin

There are many stories about bad police planting evidence or fake police trying to misrepresent themselves to shake down an innocent person. What should you do if a person claiming to be a police officer comes up to you and wants to inspect 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 inspect property to prevent or solve a crime.

When a police officer, acting in a law manner, requests to search you, you have to comply. However, there are certain things that you can do to protect yourself.

1. Ask for ID

You should request the police for his identification to ensure that he is an actual police officer. If you believe that he is not an actual police officer, then you should shout and catch the attention of people around you so that they can act as your witness. If the officer is a fraud, they may be able to assist you.

2. Record the inspection/search

During the inspection, you have the right to record the whole process of the inspection as long as you do not interfere with the actual inspection. With everyone carrying handheld video cameras in the form of their smartphones, it should be an easy to record a video of the inspection. However, if the police find illegal material or contraband during the search, the video can be used as evidence against you.

3. Ask the officer to empty their pockets

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 inspection. 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.

4. Don’t touch anything

If the police find 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 a criminal attorney to assist you.

5. Don’t sign anything

Finally, you should avoid signing any documents. If the police tell you that you must sign, please read it carefully. If you do not understand the document, you need to find someone you trust to translate it for you. Do not rely on the police to translate the document for you. 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 inspect your person and property as part of their law enforcement duties.

You have an intrinsic right to protect yourself from bad or fraudulent police officers. Be diligent when someone claiming to be a police officer wants to search you or your property.

 

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Robert R. Virasin is a licensed U.S. Attorney and managing director of Virasin & Partners. Mr. Yutthachai Sangsirisap is a licensed Thai Attorney. Virasin & Partners is an international law firm and consulting company based in Bangkok with an affiliated office in Houston, Texas and representative agents in Chiangmai, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

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