Eric Garner and Knowing Your Rights

So, my news feeds have been ablaze with the story about Eric Garner. He died because he was put in a choke hold by NY police when they tried to force him to the ground. Beyond the illegality of the said move, there is something else troubling. That troubling situation is his “past criminal history” that helped “contribute” to the police action. For someone that was considered a gentle giant, Eric Garner was also a man of a sordid past.

Understanding Eric Garner’s Situation

Then again, I did put thosEricGarnerMurder2e words and phrases in italics for a reason. You see, Garner was a man that committed nonviolent crimes. In fact, all he did was sell untaxed cigarettes. However, the way the police made it seem, one would think that Garner did more than sell chump change contraband to NY citizens. In the end, all of this mess may have been influenced by Garner selling (what we call in urban settings) “loosie cigarettes”. Sadly, I did not even know being a “loosie cigarette kingpin” would be on anybody’s radar. I learn something new every day.

Eric Garner Had Rights

One of the problems that I am noticing is that we, as a people, do not understand our rights. Outside of arguing, Eric Garner did nothing wrong. Plenty of people felt that he should have been compliant and went along with the arrest. Others, however, feel that he had his right to not go along with the situation. In short, there is plenty of confusion as to what one should do when approached by the police.

Let me break down this situation of knowing the rights and proper procedure:


1.) Unless there is probable cause, you can resist arrest: This is the biggest problem with the Eric Garner situation: was the arrest within the limits of probable cause. If there is no probable cause, you can resist an arrest [1] [2]. The only problem is actually defining probable cause. So, they could have arrested Garner. However, did the police have a good CAUSE for arresting him?

2.) Say no to the search: Unless you are a suspect with a weapon, or if there is a search warrant, police cannot search you [3]. You can simply tell them “I am against any searches and you cannot search me”. More than anything, say that you are against it if they even ask for that permission.


3.) Your rights to arrest resistance by constitutional law: “Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer’s life if necessary.” Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306. This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529. The Court stated: “Where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What may be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed.” [4]



4.) Your rights to resist arrest part two: “When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self-defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.” Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1. [5]


5.) “These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.” Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903. [6]



So, let us make sure we are aware of what is/isn’t legal. Eric Garner, by all means, felt he had the right to resist. Also, it was not really clear if the police even had probable cause for an arrest. They are already in hot water for using illegal force. The bigger issue deals with whether or not they had any good cause for bothering Eric Garner in the first place.

America, please do this: know your rights when it comes to the police. Otherwise, they will try to pull anything/everything on you.

‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!