Bernard: Morning. It’s Bernard Nomberg with the Nomberg Law Firm, again on a Tuesday, as we have been for the last several months, and we’re going to talk about another area of the law. I hope you all are doing well and dry from all these rains we’ve been having. I’ve got my buddy John Stamps here. John’s a local lawyer; I appreciate you being on this morning. John is with the Black Belt Law Center, and he’s got some interesting stuff we’re going to talk about today. If you would, John, just talk a little bit about yourself. Tell the folks who you are.
John: Well, John Stamps, country boy from Talladega County. Most of our practices are in West Alabama, starting on the other side of Tuscaloosa and what’s traditionally called the Black Belt of Alabama, Sumter, Greene, Dallas, Lowndes, Perry, and Wilcox; those counties that have been traditionally labeled as the Black Belt. Hence the name Black Belt Law Center.
Bernard: What kind of work do you guys do?
John: We do a little bit of everything. I guess you can call it a whatever-comes-to-the-door law, but primarily criminal defense and personal injury.
Bernard: Now, your offices are based out of?
John: Out at Bessemer, Alabama, but I tell everybody it is based out of my truck. So if you call me, I’ll come.
Bernard: It’s very good. Well, we’re going to talk about one area of the law that I know that you handle quite a bit, which deals with police stops if you would just share a little bit of your knowledge with the folks.
John: I guess we started back to school, and this is something I like to do at the beginning of the school year. There’s something you can pass along to your children, and it’s: we like to talk a little bit about what are your rights and responsibilities as a citizen when you’re stopped by the police.
And I always tell people you want to cooperate with the police, but you have certain rights. I guess we kind of started out primarily. The main right that I would say you need to exercise is your right to remain silent.
I see so many times people come into my office, and they put themselves behind the eight ball because they basically get the blabbermouth when the cops pull them over. They’ll tell everything that they know.
And doing criminal defense, I tell you, exercise your right to remain silent. It’s not being disrespectful. It’s not being rude; it’s your right as an American citizen based on the Constitution.
You have the right to have an attorney present before you answer any questions. And it’s not about trying to get your kids out of something that they did, and it’s not about trying to get yourself out of what you did.
It’s about protecting your rights that you’ve been guaranteed under the Constitution.
Bernard: So let’s just create a hypothetical here. Let’s say you’re pulled over, and the officer or the trooper comes to your door and asks for your license and registration. Should you be proactive in asking questions of the officer? Or should you wait for the officer to ask?
John: Always wait for the officer to ask questions.
Put it this way; you don’t want to be combative with an office. I tell people that even though you’re exercising your rights, you don’t want to be combative.
And I tell people that there are good officers and there are bad officers, just like there are bad lawyers and good lawyers.
And then again, you might be in a situation you never know what the officer’s personal life is like or what he’s bringing to the job on that day; people can have a bad day on the job. And sometimes, when you’re dealing with the police officer, their bad day can be your worst day.
So you always want to be respectful.
Don’t really question the officer; just make it clear to him that you’re cooperating with him and that you’re exercising your right to remain silent.
If you don’t mind, give you a hypothetical. Let’s say he asks for your license; please give your license to him; that’s something you’re required to do by law.
But let’s say if he starts investigating you for a crime, he says, I smell marijuana in the car, so do you have any marijuana in the car?
What’d you say is: Officer, I want an attorney present before I answer any questions, and I want my parents present, that’s if you’re a minor.
Bernard: As the person who’s been pulled over, do you have the right to do any videotaping of the encounter with the officer or the trooper?
John: It’s not against the law, but I caution everybody.
And this is more of a common sense piece of advice: it is not against the law to videotape an officer, but you do not want to be reaching around in your car when an officer is approaching your vehicle; that’s common sense.
Let’s put it this way, great officers that are doing a wonderful job have to protect themselves, and they have to protect the public. So when you’re reaching around in your car, they have no idea if you’re reaching for a phone or if you’re reaching for a gun or reaching for a weapon.
So, I always tell kids, and I tell my relatives and families, to have their hands on the wheel when they approach your car.
If you don’t have your license out when they come up to the car, that’s not a time to start reaching for it as they approach the car.
You let them tell you, and you ask the officer, ‘Can I reach and grab my license, sir?
So it’s not a time to start pulling out your phone and recording it. If you already have your phone on or someone’s already recording, that’s fine as long as it’s not creating a combative situation with the officer.
I tell people that if an officer tells you not to record, you don’t want to do something that the officer tells them not to do.
The officers are taught to escalate the situation. Whatever force you come at them with, they’re going to use a little bit more force to get you under control, as they would say.
So you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re escalating it.
Bernard: Okay. Let’s step back away from the situation where somebody gets pulled over. Schools are now back in session, and way too often, I bet you get those phone calls from folks where their child has been charged with underage drinking or in possession.
Let’s talk about that for just a minute. How do you advise your clients? Maybe you’re talking to the parents of the child or maybe the child themselves. Talk to us a little bit about that.
John: Yeah, it happens all the time, and I put it this way, ‘hey, I’ve been there myself.’
You know, you’re out with your friends, or somebody has the little six-pack, you’re in the South, and you feel like you’re a big man, and you just can’t walk off and lose all those cool points or whatever you want to call it nowadays, so you’ve got to hang out.
But I tell people this, don’t put yourself in a situation. If an officer comes up, don’t flee, don’t run, and cooperate with the officer.
If you don’t have anything in your hand, don’t start questioning, and don’t get into a situation whereby he asks you a question, and you assert your rights.
I guess another thing, too. I see other people say, ‘we just poured the beer out.’ Be careful when doing that because there can be a tampering-with-the-evidence charge.
If you don’t have anything in your hand, I always say to answer the officer’s questions.
But if they ask you something incriminating, please say I want an attorney present.
Give them your license or whatever you have, give them your ID, tell them your name, but please cooperate and do whatever the officer tells you to do.
Sometimes people ask me, do you have a right to refuse an unlawful order?
Let’s say you’re standing out with your friends at school, and an officer comes up to you and tells you, ‘hey, you need to move over here son.’ or you need to do that.
Sometimes kids hear parents talk at home, and they’re like, ‘Hey, I don’t have to do what you say. I’m not doing anything wrong.’
Please, teach your children not to do that because, an officer, if you don’t comply, will make you comply, and sometimes that’s where things go very wrong.
Bernard: Sure. And I should have mentioned this earlier. Tell folks, John, how they can get in touch with you if they have questions or concerns about these issues.
John: Well, you can call me anytime. My office number is 1866-585-2966. Or my cell, I give it out to everybody, is 205-317-6390. Feel free to call me 24/7.
Bernard: Do you guys have social media or a website?
John: Yes, https://www.blackbeltjustice.com/ is the website, and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find me on Facebook @John Thomas Stamps III.
Bernard: It’s good information we’ve gone over so far. I know that your whole practice doesn’t just focus on criminal work. What other types of areas do you have experience in?
John: Mainly, its personal injury and criminal defense. And the bulk of it is personal injury. If you’re injured through no fault of your own, sometimes you slip and fall in the store, or you’re injured on the job; if I can’t help you personally, we will find you someone that could do you a good job. So please call us.
Bernard: Great. Brett popped in with the comment, thank you, for that. If anybody has any questions or concerns while we’re on live, you’re certainly welcome to send us a message here as well as when we finish. This will be posted to our firm’s Facebook page as well as our website. You’re always welcome to reach out to us at 205-930-6900. And as John said, you have all his contact information.
I want to go back to one other area officer of the law.
It’s football season, and especially in the South, where football is so important, you see these videos and fights in the stadium. I hate to see those videos, but everybody watches them. There’s a little bit of humor in there but a lot of sadness, as far as I’m concerned.
So here’s my question to you. You’ve got some, typically, either they’re inebriated from something or emotions are high because their team just got beat by the other.
How do you advise folks who are now under police custody or being hauled away from the stadium? How do you advise folks to deal with that situation from a criminal standpoint?
John: My thing is to cooperate. As you see all the time, police will hit you with, what I call, the kitchen sink of charges. First, you’re fighting, then if you don’t stop fighting when they tell you to stop, next thing you kind of pull away from them a little bit, then they got you with the resisting arrest charge.
The key thing is once an officer tells you something, comply and keep your mouth shut. Put it this way. They got you on tape nine times out of ten, or socially with the age we live in, they got you on tape a lot of times.
But don’t get in there like, ‘well, I’ve done this, and I’ve been drinking all day, officer. And I’m tired of it, and I had to whoop his behind or do that.’
In other words, keep your mouth closed. Don’t give them any more evidence. That’s the best thing I can tell you, don’t give them any more evidence than they have on you already.
Bernard: Well, I really don’t like seeing those videos, but at times, they do provide a little humor. You can’t help but watch it, even if it is your team that’s on the losing end.
John, let’s say that it escalated to the point where there really has been a lot of drinking, and things are just not good, and your client or your future client is now being taken away to the county jail.
And let’s say that they’re now in Tuscaloosa County Jail. What’s the first time that you usually get contacted by a potential client of yours? And then, how do you advise them to deal with the fact that they’re now in jail?
John: Got you. The first thing we say is, don’t give any statements to a police officer. When you’re called out on the phone, make sure you’re being careful. Don’t give any comments. It depends on what you’ve been charged with.
But if it’s just fighting, you still don’t want to say too much over the phone if you call someone to bond you out. Because police officers, those sheriff deputies at the jails, record everything on those phones. Those are recorded conversations.
So what you want to do is your call; you get bonded out, then call an attorney. We’ll come in and see what we can do to help you.
The key thing I can say is, in those situations, keep your mouth closed. Another thing, try not to let it escalate to those situations.
And this is kind of on the sad end of that.
You see people fighting, and all it takes is just one unlucky hit or whatever you want to call it – people have died from this.
Someone falls, you punch them, and someone falls and hits their head on the curb or the concrete; you don’t see it as much in college football, but a lot of it in NFL games.
Specially, you go to these places where the fans are notorious; people die out in the parking lots of these things. People’s lives are destroyed.
I represented a young lady, who gets into a fight, and she takes the fight to a whole another level. She cuts another lady in the face with a knife; well, this lady is doing prison time. It’s not a lot you can do.
Judges, don’t give probation where you’re normally talking about a situation where someone’s been permanently maimed or scared.
Even if it’s your first time, you’re probably looking at prison time. So please think about it before you act.
That’s all I can say.
Bernard: Well, that sounds like some great advice that whether you’re pulled over in a traffic stop, or you’re approached by a police officer on campus or near campus, and they suspect something, is to cooperate.
Well, that’s some great advice. John, I appreciate your few minutes here this morning.
John: I appreciate you having me.
Bernard: Again, tell folks how they can get in touch with you if they want to talk further about these matters.
John: 1866-585-2966 is the office number, and the cell number you can reach me on is 205-317-6390. 24/7 I’m there.
Bernard: That’s good stuff, John. Again, it’s Bernard Nomberg with the Nomberg Law Firm. We’re in downtown Birmingham, as you guys have been following us, and we sure appreciate all the viewers who watch us live and then watch us later on. You can always reach us at 205-930-6900. We’ll be back next week with another informative topic, and I appreciate you all sticking with us and hope you have a good rest of your week. Take care.
Disclaimer: Please note that this transcript has been generated automatically and may contain errors, inaccuracies or deviations from the original video. It is provided as a convenience and is not intended as an exact representation of the content.