MC Hammer’s Bogus Arrest: U Can’t Top This
MC Hammer was arrested and booked on charges of “suspicion of resisting arrest” and “obstruction of an officer in performing his duties” after a run-in with a police officer in the parking lot of a shopping mall in a largely white suburb of northern California.
The encounter apparently started because the car he was driving, which he does not own, had an expired registration.
After giving the officer his license, the confrontation turned sour.
Something tells me his driver’s license didn’t identify him as “pop star MC Hammer” and instead showed his more pedestrian-sounding real name, Stanley Kirk Burrell.
Something else tells me the police officer was not a fan of the 1990s G-rated rapper and dancer and therefore did not recognize the singer, whose biggest hit you may recall “Can’t Touch This” was a bouncy, aerobicized sampling of Rick James’ funk classic “Super Freak.”
Instead, the police officer probably saw a bald black man in a black sweatshirt driving a car with expired registration in Dublin, Calif. whose official website says the city is less than 7 percent African-American.
I’m sure Mr. Hammer was not exactly helpful either, especially when the cop’s opening gesture was to tap on his window and ask “Are you on parole or probation?”
Hammer allegedly refused to answer the question after handing over his ID.
According to Hammer, who tweeted his version of events after the incident, the police officer — whom Hammer described as a “chubby Elvis-looking dude” — grabbed him and tried to pull him out of the car.
“While I was handing him my ID he reached in my car and tried to pull me out the car but forgot he was on a steady donut diet. It was comical to me until he pulled out his guns, blew his whistle and yelled for help (MallCop)!!! But make no mistake he’s dangerous.”
Hammer was then arrested, brought to the station and booked. He was later released on bail.
Suspicious ‘Suspicion’ Charge
Was it really necessary to haul the 50-year-old Hammer to jail, take his mug shot, and charge him?
The police department admitted no drugs or alcohol were involved, only that Hammer was “very argumentative and refused to answer the officer’s questions.”
But is that a crime? And what exactly is “suspicion of resisting arrest”?
“There’s no such thing,” says Scot Candell, a criminal defense attorney in San Rafael, Calif., about an hour from Dublin. He predicts that charge will be dropped, as it does not exist.
It’s also rare to be arrested for driving with an expired registration, he said.
“In general, that’s a fix-it ticket,” where a driver would get a citation, update their registration and then bring it to court to get the fine erased, explained Candell.
Your rights: ‘No duty to cooperate’
The police have a right to ask for your ID and to ask you to get out of the car if they think you’re a danger.
Other than that, “you don’t have to answer any questions and you don’t have a duty to cooperate,” said Candell.
While you don’t have to help out the police, you can’t stand in their way either.
The charge of obstruction means doing something that prevents an officer from doing his or her job.
“You don’t have to give them your keys, but you can’t stand in front of the door so they can’t open it,” Candell said.
In this case, a county sheriff’s lieutenant told the Los Angeles Times that Hammer eventually got out of the car on his own.
On the obstruction charge, Candell said there’s a pretty low bar for police to claim that they thought they were in danger.
“Just from my experience, police will often say ‘He looked suspicious and he made a quick, furtive move to his waistband,’” in order to justify pulling someone out of a car to do a protective search, said Candell, who noted he has not seen the police report in the case.
“It’s a common police lie and police-lingo for ‘I’m in trouble and need to come up with a reason for doing what I did,” Candell added.
Hammer, who performs a lot of charity work and was on his way to a prison support event when he was arrested, said he planned to use the “eye opening” incident as a “teachable moment.” Until his next court date this month, he also got in the last word:
“I will now answer his question, contrary to his personal beliefs, all people of color are not on parole or probation, fat boy!!!”