Do you know your rights?

By Julian Melton
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

On any given day, residents in NECD and Durham may see the flashing blue and red lights of a police car speeding to a crime scene or pulling over a motorist. A recent forum at N.C. Central University focused on helping people understand their rights when it comes to being stopped by the police.

Attorneys Ralph K. Frasier and Butch Williams, both graduates of NCCU’s Law School, presented “Your Roadmap to Understanding and Avoiding the Criminal Justice System” on Nov. 2 in the Turner Law Building.

Williams opened the discussion by stating, “The purpose of the program is to inform all in attendance of basic rights so they can spread the word.”

The United States requires police officers to read the Miranda Rights to anyone who is detained in police custody. Television shows and movies show officers explaining the Miranda rights while they make arrests, but do you actually know your rights?

The first topic was search and seizure.

“Should you or should you not consent to a vehicle search?” asked Attorney Frasier.

After brief discussion Frasier told the audience, “If they have to ask, the answer is always, ‘No’. The police will generally search your car when they think they have the authority to do so. If they are asking you, they probably don’t have the authority to do so.”

Attorney Frasier also emphasized that unlike a vehicle search by police, a house search always requires a search warrant.

Williams then discussed criminal records and reminded the group that youth need to be particularly careful since a criminal record makes it hard to get a job. He said that most youth with records got them through traffic violations and drug offenses.

The attorneys also differentiated between misdemeanor and felony charges. Shoplifting is an crime that can be either.

If someone is caught in the store, it is considered shoplifting and/or concealment — but if the shoplifter leaves the store, the crime becomes larceny. Depending upon the value of the merchandise, shoplifters can be charged with misdemeanor or felony larceny.

Getting the “hook-up” was also addressed in the program.

The hook-up is when an employee sells company merchandise at an unauthorized discounted price.

Williams told the group that, “the hook-up is a felony regardless of the price of the merchandise.”

The attorneys ended the workshop by urging people to share this information to prevent unnecessary criminal records.

The audience, made up mainly of NCCU students, found the session helpful.

“I learned that even if you don’t commit a crime, you can still be guilty by association,” said Amanda Chadwick, of Raleigh and a business administration major at NCCU.

When the VOICE asked Captain Paul Daye, of the Durham Police Department District One Substation,  what advice he would give NECD residents to help them stay out of trouble with the police, he said, “That’s the million dollar question. If I had the answer to that, I wouldn’t be doing this job.”

Nonetheless, he would like to urge people to make good decisions and help their friends and family to do the same.

“For example, if you don’t have a license, don’t drive,” said Daye. “Be aware of the company you keep.”