Smartphone Apps Make Sure You Know Your Legal Rights

Posted: July 7th, 2012 by Militant Libertarian

by Julia Peterson, CopBlock

When interacting with police officers, too many citizens are unaware of their legal rights, and often unwittingly tolerate illegal and unconstitutional behavior from police. Many police officers are also not as versed in proper procedure as they should be; so it helps to have reputable information at your fingertips at a moment’s notice. Here are a few mobile apps that can help you defend your rights in a peaceful and cordial way.

1. United States Constitution (Android, iOS)

Of course, this is the baseline for any conversation with police about your rights. The exact ramifications of the Bill of Rights in a legal context will require deeper study—exactly what constitutes “unreasonable search and seizure” for instance, has taken years of legal precedent to firmly establish—but if you want to be confident in your rights, this is the place to start. For your edification, the app also includes the Articles of Confederation, the Mayflower Compact, the Gettysburg Address, and more; but your main resource to prepare for encounters with police will be the searchable text of the Bill of Rights. (Cost: free)

2. PocketJustice (Android, iOS)

After you’ve memorized the Bill of Rights, it’s time to move up to Supreme Court precedent, where the nitty-gritty of police powers are found. Most of you have probably seen this video of a legal student defending his Second Amendment rights in Portland, ME; you’ll notice that his ammunition is Supreme Court precedent, not just the text of the Bill of Rights. PocketJustice offers searchable transcripts of over 100 Supreme Court cases, as well as some audio of the oral arguments (good for brushing up in the car or on the metro). Most of the landmark police-powers cases are covered here, but it’s not so dense as to be overwhelming. If you want to go deeper, you can download the Pro version, which has transcripts for over 600 cases, and 300+ additional hours of Supreme Court audio. For people who want a basic understanding of their rights without a law degree, this is a great tool. (Cost: free, $4.99 for Pro)

3. My Civil Rights (Android, iOS)

This app is not higher on the list because it is a relatively young app, so there are still display issues, but it provides almost exactly what we’re looking for: a comprehensive explanation of your rights, including FAQs and rules to follow in various situations (if you’ve been detained on the street, if you’ve been pulled over, if cops want permission to search your home, etc.) The app appears to have been intended for the iPhone originally, so you may see more bugs on some Android devices. It seems to work fine on Samsung cell phones. The only problem I’ve noticed with this app is a bit of bloat—I don’t really need an extra space to find my location and post phone numbers. (Cost: free)

4. FastCase (Android, iOS)

For the most part, police powers have been federally defined; but there are legal and procedural quirks that vary from state to state, and FastCase is an excellent resource for both state and federal case law. If nothing else, you should grab this app and do a little research on your home state. Like all the apps on this list, the case law in FastCase goes way beyond the scope of a traffic stop or warrantless search—it lays out precedent for landmark decisions in almost every imaginable category—but that’s where the searchable database become helpful. (Cost: free)

Julia Peterson
peterson.juliam@gmail.com

Julia Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby

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