By Mike Sherman
Last week’s article on carrying a weapon in an RV generated a lot of interest. I have heard from readers throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. I’ve been retired for several years now and it quickly became apparent I lack knowledge on current laws.
As previously stated, our goal with this column is to engage in a general discussion of ideas and thoughts, to promote a dialog that can give others a deeper understanding and greater insight into RVer safety and self-protection. My comments are not to be considered sound legal doctrine, just opinions based on experiences. We are all the product of our environment and life experiences, so there will seldom be absolutely perfect answers on a very complicated subject. Those with specific questions should always consult their local law enforcement jurisdiction or legal counsel.
With that in mind, I’m addressing one reader’s comment on the subject of “To cooperate or not to cooperate.”
My question concerns your comment: “While there is a fragmented aspect to the legal ramifications of carrying a weapon through the various states one might travel, survival is obviously the goal when dealing with any emergency. Having said that, it is important that I stress the importance of always being truthful with any investigating authority in the event you are confronted with questions like, ‘Do you have any weapons on board?’ Always be honest!”
I definitely agree at all times to be courteous and respectful to law enforcement personnel.
However, if at a “traffic stop” (which has never happened to me) an officer asks if I have any weapons within my RV (my home), I plan to only provide the officer with my driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance – which I am required by law to provide. And I will politely not respond to the question.
I am not required to say where I am headed, if I have any weapons in my vehicle or other non-traffic-stop questions. Your thoughts? —Dave
I would highly recommend you reconsider your stance. The officer might be stopping you for a non-traffic related reason. Perhaps your vehicle matches the description of a suspect involved in a crime. Maybe his information is vague, but there is sufficient “probable cause” to stop you for a perfectly legitimate investigation.
If you refuse to answer any questions, you could easily find yourself in the back seat of the squad car. The officer has every right to question you to a greater or lesser degree depending on a host of circumstances and reasons. It is almost common to be asked if you have any weapons or drugs on board even for a routine traffic stop.
The officer has a right to know if you are armed. Suppose it’s for a traffic violation. He needs to feel secure in dealing with you. Cops have been shot while writing out a citation in their patrol car … not noticing the driver got out of their car and is quickly walking back toward the officer.
Suppose the driver fled a restaurant without paying for the meal. The restaurant calls the police. They are given a description and other facts that might be helpful. The food server might say, “He said he was headed to so-and-so” when placing his order. The officer is not sure if he stopped the correct vehicle, so he proceeds with his investigation and will ask, “Where are you headed?” as part of the inquiry.
If you refuse to answer, are uncooperative and display a defiant attitude, the officer might assume you are the correct suspect. He may have a fellow officer get the waiter or waitress and do a “drive-by” to see if you are positively identified. All of this takes time.
To “resist, delay or obstruct” an officer in the performance of his duties is a thin line to walk. Most states have statutes arming the police with a host of tools that could cause you a great deal of problems. If they have probable cause to stop you, they have probable cause to question you. You are not a POW with a mandate to provide only a name/rank/serial number.
If the officer has the wrong man, he’ll realize it soon enough after his interrogation. It’s perfectly legal – you need not be under arrest for him to query you. The U.S. Supreme Court has given officers a broad field in which to operate and I would hate to see you be on the losing end of a situation while maintaining that your refusal to answer questions is your right to resist.
It truly is in your best interest to simply answer his/her questions then be on your way, free as a bird. I hope you can understand my reasoning. Thanks for asking my thoughts.
Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.
Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at [email protected] if you have questions or comments.