Info that police can collect without a warrant?

How long have you been a member here? It’s not uncommon for GQ threads to evolve into discussion (or debate even), AFTER the OP has been answered.

So, that’s not even close to what I mean to say, but thank you for your disingenuous snark. It is not police bashing to say that sometimes there is a disconnect between the legal answer and the facts on the ground.
If you really can’t understand that sometimes legal answers, no matter how seemingly simple, can also have a practical consequence that is outside of the one printed in the law, I don’t really know how else to explain it.
Yes. Police cannot legally force people to provide answers. Congratulations. The number of people in this thread arguing otherwise seems to be zero. And yet the ACLU says it cannot be assumed that police will respect your rights, there have been multiple consent decrees forcing departments to abide by the law and showing multiple contrary examples takes seconds. Can a person be legally profiled because of his race. The answer is of course no. Excellent, we have solved racism in policing. Does a man legally have an equal chance at sole of his children in a custody case. Yes (in most states). Yet mothers account for 80% of custodial parents in child custody cases.
In each instance, the legal question is simple. The practical effects on the ground are not nearly as black and white.

Controversial encounters between law-enforcement and civilians - the omnibus thread #2 - The BBQ Pit - Straight Dope Message Board

Would seem to cover what you’re looking for @mjmartin

And this should cover what you’re looking for:

It would- but DAT stands for Desk Appearance Ticket

Thanks for the clarification!

I don’t know how your mug shot came up - I can only assume it must have happened in some small town where such a mugshot would be published in the newspaper. But the immigration situation is precisely why I specified “publicly available” - because I know for a fact that law enforcement and other government agencies often get information that is not available to others such as an employer.

I’ve noticed this practice being changed or limited, but most places I’ve lived the regional jail had or has an “intake” website, anyone who gets booked into it has their picture and brief information about their arrest on the website. Usually, it’s only up for a few days. But there are third party websites that scrape every such website in the country and compile it and then make it permanently searchable.

The nearest regional jail to me used to have a web page up like this that was just basically plain HTML postings of the intakes and the name / charge. In the last few years, it got changed, now the Department of Corrections manages at a statewide level and to pull a record you have to know the intake date and the person’s last name. I think you could still “fish” in it, but not as easy to HTML scrape. I’m not sure if these jail sites have been deliberately changed to dissuade the HTML scrapers, or if it was changed for another reason, but I’ve anecdotally noticed the jails around here moved away from the “data dump” approach a few years ago, but for a good 15-20 years that was how they did it.

I tried this once many years ago after I had been pulled over improperly. The officer I spoke with said that he would be happy to help me file a complaint, which would be a public record , accessible and available to every cop in the city and including my name, address and phone number. I understood the implied threat and did not file a complaint.

Unless your employer can get a state or federal government to do the background check.

This was not a small town. The county had over 200,000 residents at the time and is now over 400,000 (this was almost 25 years ago) and an inner ring suburb of a major metro area of several million. The mug shot was not in a newspaper. Is it ILLEGAL for the police/sheriff to provide mug shots of people arrested & charged but whose charges were dropped to the mug shot “databases”?

I’m speaking generally here. Your mileage may vary in some particular jurisdiction.

Generally, arrest records are public records. It may sound silly, but there is a good reason to make arrest records public - the police should not be able to just arrest people and make them disappear. You don’t think American police would do that? Let me introduce you to the Chicago PD.

In many places, it was common practice to post arrestees’ photos to a public website. Perhaps this was motivated by an interest in good governance by providing easy access to public records but in other cases, it was intended to shame arrestees without benefit of trial. If posting photos were for the arrestees’ benefit, jails could have asked what they wanted, after all.

But, being public records, once websites scraped them, they could keep them and redistribute them to the public on their own terms. The general grift is that one website will post them. Then another website, often privately affiliated with the first, will promise to take the mugshot down for a fee. This looks a lot like extortion but it involves poor, largely minority arrestees, so very little is being done about it. (Okay, some states are actually trying to rein this is, to their credit).

The fact of the arrest is true, so there is no libel in reporting the truthful information. The people publishing it cannot help that, but profit entirely from, the fact that people who read of an arrest will infer some level of guilt by association.


Insults are not allowed in General Questions. This is an official Warning.

No. Why would I? That’s an implicit threat. There’s no reason to bring up what you could have been charged with other than intimidation. Either it’s saying “if you don’t behave, I may charge you with this” or it’s saying “next time, I won’t be so lenient.” Both are threats, and I cannot see why they would be calming.

What could a cop say in that situation to calm the situation? Not much IMHO, but I’d say that’s fine. In a routine traffic stop, there shouldn’t be any need to calm anyone down. But there also is no reason to bring out any manipulative tactics either. It’s a straightforward interaction. Describe what’s actually happening.

The only exception I can think of is if you’re letting them off with a warning for a first time offense. Then, of course, in explaining the warning, you’d need to say this is a one time deal. Still, they wouldn’t be saying this to try and calm anyone down, and I’d expect it only to be said at the end of the interaction.

I once had a cop give me a bogus speeding ticket. He tagged the car in front of me with speeding at the top of the hill. The car saw him, slammed on his brakes, and I caught up to him. At the bottom of the long hill, he pulled us both over and cited us with the same speed when I was actually going much slower.

I didn’t have my license on me at the time (I now have no idea why). At the end of the stop, the officer, sincerely nicely, told me that he was cutting me a break by not citing me for not having my license but he gave me the speeding ticket. At that point, he didn’t ask me for anything else. No more questions. No looking in my trunk. In my state, at the time, if he didn’t cite me within two days, he couldn’t cite me. There was no threat.

I think he was telling me he was being nice to me so that I wouldn’t feel bad about and contest the ticket. And, when I did in fact contest the ticket, he raised the irrelevant issue of my not having my driver’s license at the hearing, perhaps to show what a nice guy he was and how he would never write a bad ticket. (I still beat the ticket. To his credit, the officer authenticated my photos that made it very obvious he couldn’t have seen me as clearly as his ticket suggested).

And yet generally speaking there is no real consequence (to either the cop or the citizen) for filing a police complaint. And the idea that the cops keep a list of people who file complaints to hunt down and bully is not very realistic.

And yet the bullying of the threat was enough to get the response he wanted, because the risk was far too great for me and almost zero risk for him/them. I mean, he made the veiled threat out loud on a department phone line, ffs; that alone is enough evidence that the threat was real to dissuade me.

ETA: Note that this wasn’t one bad cop… this was a bad cop with another bad cop helping cover things up.

Note that isn’t legal by the way. This thread was theoretically back before this stopped being GQ about what the police are legally allowed to do and became a purely opinion-based thread with no factual value.

The question about what a cop can “illegally” do, is much less interesting and much less meaningful a factual question. Obviously a cop, or any person on earth, can do anything they want if they don’t care about the legal consequences.

Was the OP question inspired by this sort of action?

Just as worrying is the paperwork filled out by beat cops during “field interviews,” which encompass everything from speaking to crime witnesses/victims to whatever city residents the LAPD interacts with during its patrols. Not only are these cards used to keep the LAPD’s extremely questionable gang database stocked with alleged gang members, but they encourage officers to ask for information they have no legal reason to demand – like Social Security Numbers or, as is relevant here, “social media account(s).”

Don’t worry, if they can’t get the information from you, they’ll probably supply it themselves…

Be aware the police could just execute and / or rape every passenger in any car they stop.