The History of Marriage–A Timeline

The History of Marriage—A Timeline

-December 2017:  Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic Ocean, repeals its May 2017 law legalizing same-sex marriage, thereby becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to repeal same-sex marriage, same-sex couples thereafter being entitled to registered domestic partnerships.  (The approximately six same-sex couples that were married between May 2017 and December 2017 were able to maintain the marriage status with all its rights, privileges, and obligations.)

-July 12, 2017:  The government of the predominantly Catholic island-nation of Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea, legalizes same-sex marriage, thereby becoming the 24th nation to usher in marriage equality.

-June 30, 2017:  German lawmakers vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

-May 11, 2017:  A U.S. court rules that the non-biological parent of a same-sex marriage may be granted joint custody of the couple’s children.

-May 5, 2017:  The Supreme Court of Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, legalizes same-sex marriage.

-January 30, 2017:  89 of the 112 members comprising the synod of the Church of Norway (“the People’s Church”) voted to allow clergy to officiate the wedding of any couple, including same-sex couples. (Same-sex marriage became law in Norway in 2009.)

 -January 9, 2017:  The seventh Constitutional Court in Lima, Peru, rules that Peru must recognize same-sex marriages legally entered into outside the country’s borders. (The court recognized a Mexican [Mexico City] marriage between two men.)

-As of April 1, 2016:  The following countries allow same-sex marriage—Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark (proper and Greenland), Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales), Finland (signed 2015; to take effect 2017), France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, The Netherlands (proper), Norway, United States of America, Uruguay.

-January 19, 2016:  Same-sex marriage becomes law in Greenland (Denmark).

June 26, 2015: United States Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

May 22, 2015: Irish voters amend the country’s constitution to allow for same-sex marriage, thereby becoming the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage as the result of a popular vote.

-May 19, 2015: According to BuzzFeed (, India-based newspaper Mid-Day agreed to run a same-sex, spouse-wanted advertisement. The ad reads, in part: “Seeking 25-40, well-placed, animal-loving, vegetarian GROOM for my son (36, 5′ 11”) who works with an NGO, Caste No Bar (Though IYER Preferred)….” The advertisement was reportedly placed by the mother of gay rights activist Harish Iyer of Mumbai, India. (According to BuzzFeed, The Times of India, DNA, and The Hindustan Times all refused to run the ad).

As of May 1, 2015: The following nations allow same-sex marriage—Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark (Denmark proper), France, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand (New Zealand proper) Netherlands (Netherlands proper), Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales), and Uruguay, (Same-sex marriage is legal in certain states of Mexico and the United States).

-June 15, 2012:  Same-sex couples may be wed in the Church of Denmark, but if a minister refuses to perform the ceremony in the church, the local bishop must secure a replacement minister.

-May 9, 2012: Argentina becomes the first country to grant people the freedom to change their legal and physical gender without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric, and medical procedures beforehand. (In most other jurisdictions, transgender people must submit to physical and mental health exams before being approved for sex-reassignment treatments. The law is also the first to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without changing their bodies. Under the Argentina law, there are no medical requirements at all—no diagnosis, no hormonal treatment, no surgery. The law, in effect, says that when it comes to one’s sex and one’s gender, “you are what you say you are.” Many transgender people regard the mental and physical evaluations for sex and gender reassignment to be invasions of privacy).

-September 30, 2011: Mexico City legislator Leonel Luna proposes reform to the civil code which would allow couples to determine the length of their marriage commitment via marriage contracts, the minimum duration being two years. The contracts would provide an option to renew and include provisions for child custody and support as well as property division.

-2011: 51% of all nubile Americans (age 18 and older) are married. (As opposed to 80% in the 1950s)

-2010: Over 15% of all 2010 marriages in the United States are interracial. (Alabama, in the year 2000, becomes the last state in the U.S. to lift its unenforceable—since 1967—ban on interracial marriage)

-2009: Two-thirds of all births in the United States are to women under the age of 30, and 53% of those births are to unwed mothers. (41% of all births in 2009 in the United States were to unwed mothers).

-2007: Nepal becomes first country to allow for “third gender” option on legal documents.

-2001: Same-sex marriage legalized in Netherlands, igniting an international movement for same-sex marriage rights.

-May 8, 1996: South Africa becomes world’s first country to constitutionally prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. (The constitution protects people from discrimination on the basis of “race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”). Sexuality was thereby declared a Human Right.

-1989:  Denmark becomes the first country in the world to legislate civil unions for same-sex couples.

-1980s: Because of the high incidence of divorce beginning in the 1970s, couples begin living together before marriage in order to ascertain marital compatibility

-1977: The term “Palimony” is coined

-1973: Right to an abortion in the United States

-1973: Opening of the first battered women’s shelter in the United States

-1971: Dominican Republic institutes a one-day residency requirement for divorce

-1969 – 1989: No-Fault Divorce Laws passed in 50 states of the United States, beginning with California in 1969 and ending with New York in 1989

-1969: Stonewall Riots marks beginning of Gay Rights Movement in the United States and the rest of the world. (Prior to the Movement, many homosexuals would enter different-sex marriages and lead superficially heterosexual lives)

-1967: Interracial marriage is permissible in all 50 states of the United States.

-1960: Birth-control pills introduced onto market

-1950s: 80% of all nubile Americans married. (Status of single is regarded as socially dysfunctional)

-1950: The New Marriage Law (of China) enforces monogamy; insists upon the equality of men and women; allows for choice in marriage (Prior to law, marriage was by arrangement)

-1931: Six-week residency requirement for a Nevada divorce. By 1940, 49 of every 1,000 divorces in the United States were being executed in Nevada

-1929: Child Marriage Restraint Act (of India) makes it illegal for parents to marry off their young children (sometimes even before they were born)

-1920s: Unsupervised dating (as opposed to chaperoned family visits), made easier by independent city living and the rise of the automobile, becomes a part of life in the industrialized, urban world. A sexual revolution is ignited, which would go unmatched until the 1970s

-20th century: Numerous scholarly writings from various academic disciplines describing the diversity of ancient and early-modern cultural institutions of marriage around the world (Africa, Asia, and The Americas): heterosexual monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage; and trans-generational, trans-genderal, and companionate same-sex marriages. Endogamy and exogamy, along with patrilocal, matrilocal, and avunculocal systems practiced

-By 1900: Married women throughout the United States have right to own property in their own name

-1875: Civil marriages in Germany

-1870 and 1882: Married Women’s Property Act (England) allowed married women to keep inherited property and money they earned

-1856: Hindu Women’s Remarriage Act allows widows to remarry, although remarriage is frowned upon. (Remarriage of Hindu widows is more acceptable today)

-Victorian Era (1837-1901): Love becomes a key component in marriage. (Before the Victorian Era, love was incidental to the other reasons for entering a marriage and was oftentimes regarded as antithetical to the success of marriage)

-1836: Marriage Act of 1836 allows for civil marriages in England and Wales

-1830s: Industrial Revolution, which necessitates independent urban living—unsupervised by family—causes decline in arranged marriages in the industrialized world. With the decline of arranged marriages comes an increase in love-based marriages

-1829: Sati, the practice in India where a widow would self-immolate upon the funeral pyre of her late husband, is outlawed. (Though illegal, the practice continues to this day)

– Marriage Act of 1753 (Lord Hardwicke’s Act): Civil plus religious ceremony observed by witnesses required to make a marriage official in Great Britain (England and Wales).

-1740: Qing Dynasty outlaws homosexuality in China

-By 17th century: Some form of governmental involvement necessary to make marriage official in Protestant countries.

-16th and 17th centuries in Europe and America: “Bundling,” the practice of permitting a young couple, prior to marriage, to share a bed, fully clothed (in the family home of the female), with a wooden separation between them (or a bolster cover tied over the female’s legs), thereby enabling the couple to intimately share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions while prohibiting sexual intimacy

-1563: Council of Trent specifies that Catholic marriages must be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses

-1552: The marriage vow,“…To have and to hold from this day forward…,” is entered into Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

-Until 1545 in most of Europe: Marriage is by mutual consent and private declaration, followed by cohabitation. Neither priests nor witnesses necessary.

-1517 (-1648): Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is of the position that marriage is not a sacrament, but instead a worldly thing.

-14th century: Anti-homosexual sentiments spread across Europe

-1368-1644 (Ming Dynasty, China): Same-sex unions permitted in Fujian Province

-13th century: Many secular governments across Europe enact sodomy laws and begin strictly enforcing existing laws

-13th century: Marriage becomes a sacrament in the Roman Catholic faith

-1228: Women in Scotland gain right to propose marriage, igniting a slow trend towards similar entitlement across Europe

-12th century: Married Christian woman obligated to take the name of her husband

-12th century: Courtly love and romance become popular themes in medieval literature

-1040: Ban on polygamy for German and French Ashkenazi Jews. (Sephardic Jews in the Middle East would keep the practice until the late 1940s)

-866 C.E.: Pope Nicholas I decrees that there must be mutual consent for a valid marriage

-ca. 650 C.E.: Visigoth State in Spain, a remnant of the Western Roman Empire, criminalizes same-sex intimacy

-533 C.E.: Justinian Code outlaws same-sex intimacy in what remains of the Eastern Roman Empire

-380 C.E.: Flavius Theodosius declares Christianity the official religion of Rome, and by the end of the 4th century, most Romans had converted. (Christianity becomes the official religion of Armenia in 301 C.E., Ethiopia in 325 C.E., and Georgia in 337 C.E.)

-St. Augustine (b. 354 C.E., d.430 C.E.): Proponent of concept of sex only for procreation (Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, and Manicheanism espoused similar concepts) (St. Augustine is also credited with having formulated the concept of Original Sin)

-342 C.E.: Ban on same-sex marriage in Rome (but it continues in the Eastern Roman Empire until it is banned—along with same-sex intimacy—by the Justinian Code in 533 C.E.)

-313 C.E.: Edict of Milan is instituted, allowing Christianity to be practiced in the Roman Empire

-First-century Christian Church: Celibacy, which theoretically would allow for full devotion to God, is preferred over marriage. (Marriage is suggested, however, if the alternative is fornication and lustful behavior)

-54 C.E.: Emperor Nero marries his male lover Sporus

-Republican Era Rome (ca. 2nd century B.C.E): Marriage Sine Manu. Wife is the property of her father under the concept of Patria Potestas. She is owned by her father, he can put her to death, or demand her divorce. Upon death of father or emancipation by father, she could own property, conduct business, divorce her husband for any reason, and regain her dowry (if one had been offered) upon divorce

-Early Republican Era Rome (ca. 5th century B.C.E.): Manus Marriage. Husband owns wife (and their children under Patria Potestas). Wife could own nothing, and husband could demand her death

-King Solomon (b. 1011 B.C.E, d. 931 B.C.E.): Son of King David and Bathsheba, Solomon, according to the Hebrew Bible, had 700 wives and 300 concubines

-Ancient Egypt: Egyptian dynastic history is traditionally dated from ca. 3,200 B.C.E, the early years of the Early Dynastic Period. Most of the surviving marriage records, however, date from the Third Intermediate Period (the 21st to 25th Dynasties, dated from 1090 to 663 B.C.E). Some of the surviving marriage records of that period pertain to property rights of the couple. The term “shep en shemet,” meaning the price for marrying a bride, is oftentimes seen in those documents. There is no known evidence of religious ceremonies related to ancient Egyptian marriages. Most of the surviving records pertain to divorce. Little can be gleaned from the documents as to the Egyptian interpretation of marriage. Polygamy, by the 13th Dynasty (1795 to 1650 B.C.E.), was practiced by the ruling class, while monogamy was the norm of the less privileged classes. Brother-sister and father-daughter marriages occurred in the royal family in order to strengthen claims to rule. Egyptian iconography, especially on funerary architecture and artifacts, depicts different-sex and same-sex (to a much lesser degree) unions. Love seems to have played a significant role in many Egyptian marriages, as evidenced by the displays of affection often seen in iconographic Egyptian familial depictions, though it was most likely not a key factor in the formation of marital relationships.

The Etiquette of the Turkish Bath/Hammam

The history of the world’s steam-bathing traditions is long, varied, and storied—from the 3rd Millennium B.C.E., Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro of the ancient Indus Valley civilization in Sindh, Pakistan, to sweat lodges and temazcals of the Native Americans, to steam bathing in the onsen (mineral-rich hot springs) and sento (heated water) of Japan, to the simple Russian banya. One of the world’s most famous steam-bathing traditions, the Turkish bath, is in effect a merging of West and East: the Greco-Roman public bathing traditions that the Arabs encountered upon invading Egypt in the 7th century, and the bathing traditions of Asia.

Until indoor plumbing became a commonplace household feature, the typical urban dweller used a public bath. As such, public bathhouses served not only as venues for personal hygiene, but also as places for city folk to socialize. In Islamic culture, public bathhouses, called “hammams,” also fulfilled a religious purpose since the Muslim faith requires ablutions prior to engaging in prayer. Hammams are therefore oftentimes conveniently situated close to mosques.

Unlike the bathhouses of ancient Rome, the focus of which was ambient steam, the focus of the Turkish bath is water. Today’s saunas are the legacy of the Roman system, whereas the hammam (spelled “hamam” in Turkish) remains as it has existed for hundreds of years. (The concept of the Turkish bath as a method of cleansing and relaxation became popular in Western Europe during the Victorian Era, the first Turkish bath opening in Cork County, Ireland in 1856, followed by one in Manchester in 1857, then one in London in 1860. The fundamental difference between the Turkish hammam and the Victorian Turkish bath is that the bather in the Victorian bath would typically take a plunge in a communal pool of cool water after the hot room; whereas in the hammam, baths are to be taken with running, clean water, regarded in Islamic culture as infinitely more hygienic than pools containing stagnant water).

Turkey may not be the best place for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, but it certainly is the best place for a traditional Turkish bath. And it is best that a gentleman know beforehand what he will encounter upon entering a historic hammam, some of which have been operational since the 15th century, or one of the modern hammams, usually situated in hotels. But old hammam, new hammam, there is a long-established protocol for stripping down and soaping up, Turkish-style.

Many hammams offer two services, each with a corresponding fee: self-service, and traditional service. A gentleman who elects the self-service will have to provide his own soap and towel and will bathe himself. For an authentic “Turkish bath” experience, however, a gentleman should elect the traditional service, a ritual which takes at least 30 minutes and entails, among other things, a full-body wash and massage by an attendant. All the necessary equipment and products for the traditional service are provided by the hammam; but a man who prefers to use special skin products should provide them for the attendant. (Typically at a modern full-service hammam, other bathing/spa styles such as aromatherapy oil massage, reflexology, facial clay masks, Indian head massage, etc., are also available). But regardless of the service selected, patrons are generally allowed to use the facility as long as they wish. Most hammams are open for at least 12 hours, from before daybreak at 6:00 a.m., to 12:00 midnight. [Hammams were originally just for men. Eventually, women were allowed to enter hammams to recover from illness or after childbirth. Then, eventually, because Muslim women were otherwise prohibited from going about in public, women were allowed to socialize with each other at hammams, so much so that a husband who could not afford to regularly send his wife to a hammam could be divorced.] Today, some hammams accommodate both sexes, even if in different sections and with same-sex attendants. But more conservative hammams tend to have different hours for male and female clients).

Upon selecting the traditional service option, the guest is handed a basket or a kit with all the items he will need for his bath. He is then led by his “tellak,” a male masseur-attendant, to a changing room with individual lockers or to a private cubicle called a “camekan,” where he should leave his clothing and all his personal belongings. Lockers and private cubicles containing personal belonging should be locked. Clients keep their locker/cubicle keys with them throughout their stay at the hammam. (Typically, keys are attached to an elasticized band which allows them to be easily slipped onto or off a wrist or an ankle for safekeeping and convenience). Wooden, clog-like, slightly elevated sandals (“nalin”) are provided to keep one’s feet out of any water while walking around in the hammam; and a peştemal, typically made of a striped or Madras-plaid cotton fabric, is used to cover the loin area throughout the ritual (Fabric of a silk-cotton blend or pure silk is also used). Public nudity, even amongst members of the same sex, is discouraged in Turkish culture, so utmost modesty is required at all times. Al-Ghazali, a prominent 11th -century Muslim theologian writes in The Mysteries of Purity, one or the volumes of his multi-volume work, Revival of the Religious Sciences, that nakedness should be avoided: “…he should shield it from the sight of others and second, guard against the touch of others.” If undressing in an open area such as in a public locker room, once a man has undressed down to his underwear, he should cover his loin area with the peştemal prior to slipping off his underpants—the way he would cover himself with a beach towel in order to remove his underpants and don his swimming trunks at a public beach. He should never stand totally nude, even in the locker room, his private parts exposed. And even during the full-body wash, a man is required to wash his own genitals and other private parts—all the while covered by the peştemal. (A woman may go about topless at a hammam, but she always wears a panty under her peştemal. A woman who prefers to cover her breasts wears a brassiere throughout her bath. It is important, therefore, for women to carry an extra change of underwear. And many men, after being thoroughly cleansed hammam-style, would be wise to don fresh underwear).

The first phase of the Turkish bath is the “hararet,” or hot room, the purpose of which is to unwind, relax, and sweat. Each hammam is different. But generally, the hararet is a luxurious, impressive room: paved in marble, walls of marble, and a dome of marble. There is always a göbektaşi (“navel stone”), the raised marble platform in the center of the room, which conceals the heating source. And there are always marble basins (“kuma”) mounted onto the perimeter walls.

After about 15 minutes of sitting, reclining, and flat-out lying on the warm-to-hot göbektaşi, the client is rejoined by his attendant. The client is instructed to position himself towards the perimeter of the göbektaşi, lying flat on his back or on his stomach, then the attendant-masseur soaks the client with warm water then lathers him up. A rigorous, soapy-sudsy, full-body massage ensues. Throughout it all though, the peştemal remains in place.

After the full-body wash and massage is a full-body scrub. And if a gentleman thinks he has been “worked over” with the wash and massage, he has another thing coming: A course, natural-fiber mitt (“kese”) is used by the attendant to scrub the body clean—so much so that the suds will show evidence of soilure and dead skin. Another soaping-up follows the scrub-down.

[If at any point during the wash, massage, or scrub a gentleman becomes visibly sexually aroused, he need not be overly embarrassed. A simple apology without explanation or elaboration will suffice: “Pardon the display.” Tellaks are professionals and are accustomed to such occurrences. Some may even receive the reaction as a compliment. Besides, for a gentleman to try to conceal his arousal by turning onto his stomach upon the slab of marble is ill-advised…. Talk about a rock and a hard place!]

The client is then led to one of the basins. There, the client is invited to sit upon a marble block or stool alongside the basin. The attendant then uses a metal bowl (“tas”), usually made of silver, brass, or copper, to catch cool, running water from a faucet above the basin and rinses the client from head to toe, the peştemal remaining in place throughout the entire process. (In Western-style “Turkish baths,” rather than rinsing with running water at a basin, clients plunge into a cool pool of water).

After the rinse, the attendant typically leaves the hot room, allowing the client to relax for a bit before rejoining the attendant and being led to the “soğukluk,” (the cooling room) where clients sit and collect themselves. The cooling room also typically houses toilets and showers. So the client is provided with a fresh, dry peştemal and clean towels.

In the relax room (sometimes separate from the cooling room), clients get to recline, socialize, and are offered refreshments, cocktails, and light food, especially fresh fruits.

It is customary to tip attendants 10 to 20 percent—in cash—of the total cost of the hammam service.

At the end of the ritual, a gentleman gets dressed, pays his bill, and re-emerges into the outside world, feeling squeaky-clean.

It is said that 16th-century Istanbul boasted 4,536 private and 300 public hammams. But one of the most enduring is the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, built in 1555. It was operational as a hammam until 1910, then became a prison, then a carpet bazaar. It is again, today, a luxurious hammam. And a gentleman visiting Istanbul should experience its splendors.

How to Safely Seek Emergency Assistance in the Middle of the Night at a Private Home

When Seeking Emergency Assistance at a Private Home in a Residential Area in the Middle of the Night

There have been numerous tragic occasions where innocent young men, desperately seeking emergency assistance in the dead of night—perhaps after a traffic accident or upon encountering car trouble in inclement weather—have been shot dead on front porches through glass or screen doors by allegedly “startled” home occupants who decided to shoot first and answer questions later. How a gentleman conducts himself when trespassing private property may make the difference between life and death.

When the door of a private home has a door knocker, a gentleman should knock three times in rapid succession, followed by a three-second pause, then another three rapid knocks, before immediately walking away from the door, preferably back onto public property directly in front of the house in an illuminated area if possible, (but certainly to at least 15 feet away from the door—in plain view—or completely off the front porch) in order to wait for an occupant of the home to respond. While waiting in plain view, the gentleman should continue using his hand-held device to attempt contact with the local emergency assistance agency. Being actively engaged in attempting to contact local emergency assistance also demonstrates to the home occupant that the gentleman is not armed with a weapon. (If after five minutes there is no response from an occupant of the home, the gentleman should repeat the process outlined above). Besides being a safety precaution, immediately vacating the premises and returning to public property directly in front of the home also serves a practical purpose: It allows the gentleman to observe whether his call to attention has alerted the occupants of the home—as evidenced by the turning on of lights, the opening of windows, etc. Being on public property, in plain view directly in front of the home also affords a startled home occupant the opportunity to calmly and rationally assess the situation from a safe distance, perhaps opening an upper-level window to respond to the inquiring gentleman. Upon obtaining the attention of the occupants of the home, the gentleman should quickly extend greetings for the evening and apologize for the imposition, then immediately (and audibly) declare his need for assistance—all from a “safe, non-threatening” distance: “Good evening, ma’am, sorry for the late-night imposition. Can you please help me and my friend by calling emergency assistance? I’ve been involved in a car accident about a mile down the road. My friend is injured, bleeding, and in the vehicle. I have no mobile phone reception. The situation is urgent. Thank you.” Only when invited by the occupant to re-approach the door should the gentleman do so. [If the occupant is unwilling to invite the gentleman onto his/her property or into the home while assistance is en route, the gentleman should request that the occupant provide a detailed physical description—height, weight, race, approximate age, garments—of the gentleman to the emergency agency so that the first-responders know in advance the physical characteristics of the person to whose assistance they have been summoned].

When the home has a doorbell (instead of a door knocker), it should be rung twice in rapid succession, followed by a two-second pause, then rung twice again in rapid succession, followed immediately thereafter by the procedure outlined above.

If after two attempts there is no response from the occupants, the gentleman should assess the totality of the circumstances, then decide whether to seek assistance elsewhere, or to make further contact attempts at the same residence.

The Etiquette of Police-Detention

When Detained by Law Enforcement Officers


In a free society, the general rule is that a person is allowed to do anything that is not prohibited by law. But all the world’s countries are not free societies. And different countries—and sometimes even different jurisdictions within a country—have different laws pertaining to Human Rights; Constitutional Rights; Civil Rights; Privacy Rights; the presumption of innocence or guilt; freedom of movement, assembly, speech; civil disobedience rights, etc.

The laws pertaining to the interactions between law enforcement officers and private citizens are similarly varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. So when living in or visiting a place, a gentleman should educate himself as to the laws governing police-questioning, police-detention, search and seizure by the police, etc., for how a man conducts himself when confronted by law enforcement officers can make the difference between freedom and incarceration and even life and death.

The duty to serve and protect the public rests with the police. In civilized societies, people should not have to be instructed on how to protect themselves from the police. People should be able to view law enforcement officers as beacons of safety, not as gun-toting bullies and symbols of injustice. As such, it is incumbent upon police departments to instruct their personnel on how to carry out their duties in compliance with the law. There should be zero-tolerance policies against police brutality and the use of excessive force. After all, officers, too, should be gentlemen. But in the meantime, while police departments across the United States and in other countries around the world—in light of the heightened awareness and scrutiny of police misconduct as a result of the proliferation of private recording devices—reassess and establish best-practices for when engaging private citizens, it is incumbent upon gentlemen-citizens to conduct themselves such that their interactions with law enforcement officers are as incident-free as possible.

Whenever law enforcement officers engage an individual for any suspected legal infraction, they are poised to expect the worst. Tensions are heightened, and people oftentimes assume aggressive, self-preservation, fight-flight, and fear modes, amongst others. But typically, in such situations, it is the officer with the proverbial “handle” and the gentleman with the proverbial “blade,” which, in literal terms, correlates to the trigger versus the muzzle. A gentleman should therefore be prepared to err on the side of safety and caution whenever interacting with the police. And every courtesy—within the bounds of personal dignity and without waiving or relinquishing any clear-cut legal rights and protections—should be extended to law enforcement officers. If there is ever a time to extend a “Yes, sir,” “No, officer,” and “How may I be of assistance, ma’am,” it is when detained by law enforcement officers. A mouthful of “humble pie” and sip of “polite juice” can go a long way in such situations. The objective—from the outset of the interaction to its conclusion—should be to provide officers with no reasonable justification for aggressive conduct.

And the cardinal rule is: Never run from the police or resist arrest. Running from the police or resisting arrest can be a mortal mistake. Even if “dead-wrong,” and “guilty as sin,” a man is more likely to survive a police encounter and its legal aftermath if he allows for a peaceful, orderly detention than if he assaults the police or attempts to run away.  (Also, in an area regarded as a “high crime area,” to suddenly or without provocation run or flee from police officers who can be identified as such is regarded as constituting “reasonable suspicion” such that the police would be justified in making an “investigative stop,” which could result in a “pat-down”/search for contraband).

When it comes to interacting with law enforcement officers and police-detention, the adage, “knowledge is power,” is tantamount to gospel truth:

In the United States, Certain General Rules Should Be Observed

-Unless at a designated check-point, such as at a border or authorized roadblock, generally, law enforcement must have “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” to believe you have committed a crime, are in the process of committing a crime, or are about to commit a crime in order to stop you for the purpose of questioning you. (See below “Stop-and-Frisk” for definitions of “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion”).

-If a law enforcement officer stops you for questioning and you think he/she may suspect you of criminal activity, you should not answer questions posed by the officer without a lawyer present on your behalf.

-When stopped for questioning, if it is clear (in your mind) that you are not or were not involved in any criminal activity, you may answer the police in order to assist them. However, you are not obligated to so. Typically, you cannot be arrested for refusing to answer questions; and your refusal to answer cannot not be used against you.

-Driving is a privilege, not a right. (It is for that reason that drivers are required to obtain and maintain valid drivers’ licenses). It is also for that reasons that drivers, when stopped, are required to present their drivers’ licenses—to demonstrate that they have acquired the privilege of driving. A driver, therefore, would not be within his legal right in refusing to present his driver’s license when requested to do so in a pull-over. It should be noted that when law enforcement officers demand the presentation of identification, drivers’ licenses, travel documents, etc., they are not asking questions; they are demanding the presentation of documents. And they have a right to demand the presentation of certain documents in circumstances where they have a right to stop you in the first place. [It should be noted that in the United States, unlike in many other countries, private citizens are not generally required to carry government-issued identification]. “May I see your driver’s license and registration, please” (in the context of a pull-over for an alleged traffic violation) is not a question; it is a polite way of demanding. And the demand should be complied with. If the officer then proceeds to ask the question, for example, “Do you realize that you were traveling 50 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone?” that then becomes a “question”—the answer to which can affect innocence or guilt, and you should not answer. If the officer “demands” an answer, you should state plainly and calmly, “Officer, I prefer not to answer any questions at this time.”

-If you are stopped by the police and you feel your detention is improper or that you have satisfied their need for basic information, you should ask the police if you are free to leave. “Officers, am I free to leave?” If you do not specifically ask to leave, the detention will be regarded as “voluntary.”

-If you are not free to leave and are therefore under arrest, you do not have to answer questions posed by the police. You are “under arrest” or “in custody” when you are not free to leave—even if you have not yet been handcuffed or physically restrained. And once you are “under arrest” or “in custody,” law enforcement should advise you of your “Miranda Rights”: the right to remain silent; that whatever you say or do can be used against you in a court of law; that you have a right to counsel during questioning; and that if you cannot afford counsel, one will be appointed for you if you so desire. (An officer’s failure to inform you of your “Miranda Rights” does not exculpate you. But it renders the prosecution incapable of using, for most purposes, what you say to the police from the moment of arrest onward in response to their questions as evidence against you at trial). The surest way to ascertain whether you are under arrest or in custody is to ask (after the officer has obtained whatever basic information he may be legally authorized to obtain, if any): “Officer, am I free to leave?” But, again, it is important for you to know that when you are not under arrest [When you are free to walk away from the police engagement if so desired], you do not have to answer questions posed by the police; and that if under arrest, you do should not speak with police until your attorney is present.

-Police do not need “reasonable suspicion” to use a drug-sniffing dog to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic-stop, the rationale being that the dog detects only illegal substances—material in which there is no legitimate privacy interest. (But the dog must be present at the time of the stop, or must be brought to the scene in a reasonable amount of time—the normal amount of time it would take to check tags, documents, and write the ticket/issue the citation/issue a warning). The driver should not be detained unreasonably for the purpose of allowing a drug-sniffing dog to be brought to the scene to sniff for illegal substances—unless there is reasonable suspicion in the first place of a crime, the nature of which can be detected by a sniffing dog. Even if a detaining officer tells a driver that a dog is en route to the scene, the driver should specifically ask if he is free to leave. And he should be granted permission to leave—unless there is reasonable suspicion. If the driver is informed that he is not being detained, or once he has been handed the citation, he is free to leave, even if a dog is in fact en route.

-When an officer presents a driver with a citation/ticket, the driver will generally be required to sign the citation/ticket. The purpose of the signature is to acknowledge receipt of the citation, not as an admission of guilt.

-Whenever engaged by law enforcement officers, it is advisable to take mental notes of their physical descriptions, their names, and badge numbers. (Asking an officer for his/her name/badge number—even though it is your right to do so—will oftentimes put him/her on the defensive, sometimes resulting in overly aggressive conduct).

-Except for signing to acknowledge receipt of a citation, it is best not to sign any other document presented by law enforcement unless you are in full understanding and agreement of the contents of the document and of consequences of affixing your signature. The wisest approach is to sign only upon advice of counsel.

When Pulled Over for an Alleged Traffic Violation

When driving and directed to pull over by law enforcement, a gentleman should:

-Immediately slow down, ignite the flasher device, use the turn-signal to indicate the side of the road where the vehicle will be brought to a stationary position, then stop the vehicle. If the request to stop is made during the nighttime, all attempts should be made to pull over at the nearest available well-illuminated area. When no well-lit area is immediately available, the nearest section of the road with sufficient “shoulder” should be selected.

-Once the vehicle has been brought to a stop, it should be securely put into “Park” mode, and the engine should be turned off. If at nighttime, the interior light should be illuminated so that the approaching officer(s) can clearly see that the driver and any other occupants of the vehicle are unarmed. The vehicle’s radio should be turned off. Any headsets should be turned off and removed from the head. Before the officer approaches the vehicle, everyone in the vehicle should be silent.

-The driver should then immediately place both hands—in plain view—onto the steering wheel (in the “11:00” and “12:00” positions for left-side steering wheels; and in the “12:00 and 1:00 positions for right-side steering wheels) or, preferably, dangle both hands out the opening of the driver’s partially closed window such that the approaching officer can clearly see that the driver is unarmed.

-Prior to the officer’s approach, all window of the vehicle should be fully closed—except for that of the driver, that window being opened to about four or five inches down from the full upright position so that oral exchanges between the approaching officer and driver are mutually audible and documents can be requested, presented, and returned. Maintaining a partially closed window protects the driver’s right to privacy and establishes his non-consent to a search of his vehicle.

-When the officer approaches, the driver should extend greetings appropriate for the time of day:

Good afternoon, officer, how may I help you? The officer should at that point clearly state the reason for the pull-over. If the purpose for the pull-over is a traffic violation, then the officer should engage only the driver. Any passenger(s) in the vehicle should remain still (with both hands in plain view), silent, observant, and legally compliant.

-Generally, immediately thereafter, the officer will demand a presentation of a driver’s license and registration documents. Prior to reaching for the requested documents, the driver should inform the officer that he is about to reach for the requested documents, wait for some tacit or explicit affirmation from the officer, then proceed to retrieve the requested documents: “Officer, per your request, I will now retrieve the documents you have requested. My registration document is in the glove compartment. I will now retrieve the registration document….. My driver’s license is in my wallet in my rear pocket. I will now reach for my driver’s license….” Once the documents have been secured, they should be handed to the officer via the opened portion of the driver’s window. (Generally, upon the presentation of documents, the officer will return to his vehicle in order to enter/verify the presented documents. While that verification process is in progress, the driver should remain seated in his vehicle with both hands prominently placed onto the steering wheel as described above, or visibly displayed, as described above, out the driver’s partially opened window. (If the officer demands that the driver’s window be additionally or completely lowered, the driver should comply after stating, “Officer, I am lowering my window per your request, but I do not consent to any searches”).

-Generally, upon returning to the driver’s vehicle, the officer will return the documents to the driver, issue a citation/ticket/warning to the driver, then allow him to proceed on his way. [In some jurisdictions, a ticket must be paid immediately upon issuance, and a driver must be prepared to render payment—then may later contest the payment at the appropriate forum]. On other occasions, however, the officer, rather than immediately issuing the citation, may further engage the driver.

-A gentleman may, under the 5th Amendment’s Right Against Self-Incrimination, refuse to answer any question, especially those to which the answer may lead to self-incrimination. Questions such as, “Do you know that you were going 50 miles per hour in a 30-mile-hour zone?” need not be answered. Generally, the Right must be specifically invoked when declining to answer questions during a police interview: “Officer, I choose not to answer any questions at this time,” is sufficient to invoke the Right.

-A gentleman must know that an officer has the right to ask him to exit his vehicle. When an officer requests that a gentleman exit his vehicle, the gentleman should comply: “At your request, I will now exit the vehicle. I will now disengage my seat belt, then I will exit the vehicle.” (In preparing to exit and in exiting the vehicle, sudden gestures or abrupt movements should be avoided). Before exiting the vehicle, the gentleman should fully close his partially opened window, remove the car key from the ignition, use the automatic lock to secure all doors of his vehicle, then exit the car, slowly and calmly. The driver should secure his car key in his pocket, prior to doing so informing the officer, “Officer, I will now place my car keys into my pocket.” (If there are passengers in the car, they are to remain in the vehicle unless instructed by the officer to vacate the vehicle. But such a request is rare). Once outside the vehicle and situated where directed to by the officer, the gentleman should request clarification for his apparent detention. (Once a driver has presented his documents and the documents have been verified by the officer, if the legal infraction is solely a traffic violation, the only pending matter is for the officer to issue a citation/ticket/warning, thereafter allowing the driver to freely proceed on his journey. If no citation/ticket/warning is proffered, and the officer seeks further engagement with the driver, the driver should politely interrupt the perceived prolonged engagement by specifically asking the officer, “Officer, am I free to leave?” If the officer does not grant permission to leave, the driver should request confirmation that he is under arrest: “Officer, am I being detained?” If the officer indicates that the driver is under arrest, the driver should then self-recognize his Right to Remain Silent and await to be informed of those rights, answering no questions in the meantime or thereafter until he has secured legal representation.

-If an officer requests permission to search a gentleman’s vehicle, the gentleman should refuse the request by stating audibly: “I do not consent to a search of the vehicle.” Unlocking the car door(s) or handing over the car keys to the officer upon his/her request may be regarded as “consent” to a search. (Previous owners, occupants, passengers, etc., may have inadvertently left behind items, unbeknownst to the driver. An unlabeled pouch of medical marijuana left behind by a hitchhiker, for example, could adversely impact a driver).

-A police officer is legally allowed to lie or tell untruths, make false threats of imprisonment, etc., in order to extract what he believes will be incriminating information or to trick a person into waiving his rights. A gentleman must, therefore, know his rights and should act accordingly.

When videotaping/audiotaping interactions with law enforcement officers

-Whether people can be videotaped or audiotaped without their consent differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, for example, videotaping and audiotaping are governed by wire-tapping/eavesdropping laws and in some cases require consent. In the United States, the general rule is that on-duty police officers may be openly video/audiotaped while executing their duties in public. The rationale for the general rule is rooted in the First Amendment and holds that people, especially public servants, do not have an expectation of privacy in public places. Notification of an intent to video/audiotape, of ongoing video/audiotaping, or video/audiotaping in such a manners that the recording is obviously occurring is generally sufficient to satisfy the “openly” requirement.

-Unless the recording is serving to endanger an officer or physically obstruct his ability to conduct his duties, video/audiorecording in public spaces is generally permissible. If an officer instructs a person who is otherwise within his right to video/audiotape not to proceed with the recording, the person should state his objection to the officer’s demand, then use the taping device to place onto the record that he/she was instructed to refrain from video/audiotaping before extinguishing the recording device. (A person who refuses to comply with the officer’s demand to extinguish the video/audiotaping device should do so at his own discretion, knowing that he is probably within his legal right but that he may have to face the reaction—legally authorized or not—from the officer. Officers, for example, have been known to arrest audio/videotapers on catchall misdemeanor grounds such as “obstruction of justice,” “disorderly conduct,” etc., and have been known to detain, harass, confiscate the recording device, and initiate legal charges against the recorder, all of which can be very disruptive to the recorder’s well-being. But the arrest will not be for audio/videotaping itself; it will be for some other “offense.” It is wisest to record on a system that has a remote storage/archival system such that if the recording device is destroyed, the recording will have been stored and saved elsewhere. In essence, though, a person who elects to video/audiotape in defiance of an officer’s demand that the recording device be extinguished should be prepared to be arrested—even if the video/audiotaping is being legally conducted).

-A gentleman should not abruptly reach for his recording device or point his recording device directly at an officer. Officers have been known to be startled by such gestures and have discharged their weapons at innocent citizens reportedly under the mistaken belief that the citizen was reaching for or pointing a firearm.

Stop and Frisk”

-In order for a police officer to stop you and frisk you (pat you down), he must have “reasonable suspicion” (a less stringent requirement than “probable cause”) that you are committing a crime, have committed a crime, or are about to commit a crime, and he must have a reasonable belief that you may be armed and presently dangerous. [“Probable cause” is usually required for arrests and warrants. Probable cause is defined as “apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent person to believe that an accused person is about to commit a crime, is committing a crime, or has committed a crime, thereby warranting his/her prosecution.”]

-During a stop-and-frisk, an officer may ask you to identify yourself. An officer may ask for your name in a stop-and-frisk as the interaction is regarded as somewhat of an “investigation.”

-The purpose of a stop-and-frisk is to perfunctorily check for dangerous weapons—not drugs or anything else. The officer may remove or ask you to remove anything that feels like a dangerous weapon (Typically, the officer should be checking for hard objects—like guns, knives, brass knuckles, etc. [But if, for example, the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that you are carrying a plastic bag of acid to throw onto another person, the officer may be justified in removing or asking you to remove a soft object]). But he should not remove or ask you to remove anything that does not feel like a dangerous weapon. (A plastic bag with marijuana, for example, cannot be perceived as a dangerous weapon and should therefore not be removed in a pat-down). At the initiation of the pat-down, you should state, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.” But you should not physically resist the search. During or at the end of the pat-down, state again, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.” Throughout the pat-down experience, it is important that you remain calm, non-aggressive, compliant, non-threatening. The only thing you should assert, calmly and politely, is your objection to the search.

-A gentleman should always take mental note (or should specifically request) the name, badge number and precinct name of any law enforcement officer by whom he is stopped for questioning. Officers have been known to become increasingly aggressive when asked to provide their names and badge numbers as they oftentimes perceive the request to be the precursor to the filing of a compliant or a request for disciplinary action. If it is possible to obtain the information by observation rather than by specific inquiry, the former should be employed.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Checkpoints

-Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Checkpoints, also called “Sobriety Checkpoints,” are the most common roadblock-checkpoints in the United States. The official purpose for DUI checkpoints is to give officers an opportunity to perfunctorily observe motorists for obvious signs of inebriation or being under the influence of some controlled substance. The detention is supposed to be brief. But such checkpoints also serve an investigatory function in that they allow police to observe, from close proximity, passing motorists during the brief detention. At DUI checkpoints, officers are allowed to check tags and drivers’ licenses. Officers are only allowed to search a vehicle if there is probable cause. At a DUI checkpoint, “probable cause” may be established by an officer claiming to smell liquor on your breath or marijuana in your car. Some checkpoints are serviced by drug-sniffing dogs.

-While a gentleman may be requested to present his driver’s license and other documentation at a DUI checkpoint, he may refuse to answer questions.

-If detained at a DUI checkpoint and asked to submit to field sobriety test, a gentleman should refuse to submit to such testing unless he is certain he will pass the test. If he believes that there is a good possibility that he might fail the test, he should refuse to take the test and refuse to answer any questions until his attorney is present. If a blood test is forcibly administered, the gentleman should, immediately upon release, go to a hospital or clinic and have an independent blood test taken.

-Cars approaching a roadblock are generally monitored. Avoiding a roadblock (which usually entails an illegal U-turn), is likely to result in a pullover for a traffic violation. And avoiding a roadblock may be regarded as “reasonable suspicion,” which could lead to a pull-over. It is probably wisest, then, to proceed to the checkpoint, aware of the various scenarios that could unfold and how to best conduct oneself under the various circumstances.

When Walking and Stopped by the Police

-Because driving is a privilege, rather than a right, a gentleman generally has fewer privacy and freedom of movement rights when operating a vehicle than when walking about on foot. Freedom of movement on foot is almost universally regarded as a basic human right and, as such, may be infringed upon only in the most compelling of circumstances.

-There are countries in the world where a gentleman must present government-issued identification to armed guards in order to enter a commercial bank. And in some countries, law enforcement officers can conduct unannounced identification checks on board trains, buses, or at public venues and subway stations. But in general, in order to stop a person traveling on foot to ask him questions or to demand the presentation of identification, law enforcement officers must have at least reasonable suspicion of some illegal involvement. (See below, “When Law Enforcement Officers Request Your Name and/or Identification”). Whenever a gentleman feels that his movement by foot has been illegally impeded by law enforcement officers, he should ask the “golden rule”: “Officer, am I free to leave?”

When law Enforcement Officers Request Your Name and/or Identification

Some jurisdictions—including some within the United States—allow for an officer to ask you for your name and/or identification if the officer has a reasonable and “articulable suspicion” of criminal involvement. [“Articulable suspicion” is derived from specific facts that can be described—not just based on “hunch” or “unparticularized suspicion” or “intuition.” And the suspicion must be associated with the specific individual]. However, if you believe that giving your name would be incriminating, you may have a right to withhold your name/remain silent pursuant to the 5th Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. Generally, only when driving a car or crossing a border is a person required to present identification to law enforcement personnel. Currently, in the United States, only about half of the states have “stop-and-identify” laws.

The general rule is that if you are not in a “stop-and-identify” jurisdiction, you are not required to provide your name to an officer even if he asks you for your name. But even within jurisdictions where you are not required to provide your name, there are two divergent schools of thought:

-One viewpoint is that you should never speak with the police unless your are required to by law and/or a lawyer is present on your behalf. A person of that school of thought, upon being asked for his name, should respond with golden question: “Officer, am I free to leave?” If the officer feels that there is a “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed a crime, are committing a crime, or are about to commit a crime, he can respond “No [ , you are not free to leave].” At that point, you should immediately state, “Officer, I do not consent to any search.” And at that point, since you are being detained, you should request counsel and invoke your right to remain silent. At that point, you will probably be physically restrained (which you should not resist) and taken to the police station to be officially “booked,” photographed, etc. But at least you will not have provided any self-incriminating information to the officer. If the officer does not feel that there is “reasonable suspicion,” he is legally required to permit you to leave. [Again, detentions are regarded as voluntary unless you specifically ask to leave or ask if you are free to leave].

-The other school of thought is that you should be as courteous and cooperative with the officer as possible—while safeguarding, asserting, and not waiving your rights. Under this school of thought, you would, for example, answer certain basic questions that the officer may pose—such as by providing your name (but you would not, for example voluntarily supplement that request with your social security number and the maiden name of your mother!) But you should never consent to any searches. And you should not answer any question that may have legal implications. Once the most basic of information has been provided to the officer, you should ask the golden question: “Officer, am I free to leave?” If after being exceedingly polite and then asking to leave the officer continues to detain you, you should immediately ask for counsel, state that you do not consent to any searches, and thereafter exercise your right to remain silent.

When Officers Arrive at Your Home

Though the home is not a “public place,” there are some people who are not aware that they have the right to deny entry to law enforcement officers under most circumstances.

-Except for emergency situations (such as a violent crime occurring within the household), it is not legal for law enforcement officers to enter your home without a signed warrant—unless you consent. (It is not illegal, however, for the police to knock on your door and ask permission to enter your home to do a “routine search” or “to search for illegal firearm as part of a neighborhood safety program,” etc.) The onus is on the homeowner/occupant to refuse their request. You may refuse their request by politely stating, “Officers, I appreciate the work you are doing for the community, but I will not permit you to enter my home unless you have a signed warrant. Thank you, and have a good day.” You could even elect not to answer the door. Or you could decline their request to enter, speaking to them through a closed door or a partially open door (for example, with a security chain in place). Alternatively, you could step outside, close your door behind you [make sure you have your key so that you can get back inside!], and speak to the officer if you so choose.

When Questioned by School Officials or Law Enforcement Officers on School and College Campuses

-Some constitutional protections are applied differently (and oftentimes less stringently) on school campuses. Basic 4th Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures, for example, are balanced against the interest in safe, weapon-free, drug-free schools.

-If a student believes he may be suspected of committing a crime and is therefore being questioned by law enforcement officers or school officials, the student should exercise his 5th Amendment right to remain silent and answer no questions until his parent(s) and/or attorney is present.

US Border Checkpoints

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agents (a division of the Department of Homeland Security [DHS]) are allowed to search your person and your personal belongings at the U.S. border without “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion.” No search warrant is required. Whenever a person crosses the border, he/she consents to such searches.

Generally, CBP may stop and search anyone entering or exiting the United States if the agents have reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying contraband. Such searches can entail pat-downs, strip-searches, body-cavity searches, and involuntary X-ray searches.

Generally, Homeland Security must have “reasonable suspicion” before it can conduct forensic searches of electronic devices such as laptops, mobiles phones, camera memory cards, etc. But because, as of 2015, the law is still developing and unclear in this area, agents have been known to request/demand “quick looks” for open “windows,” etc., of electronic devices. You should therefore password-protect your files prior to crossing a border, and you should never voluntarily divulge your password.

(The problems arise when CBP checkpoints are established miles [sometimes up to 100 miles] away from any US border, and the agents conduct themselves as if at an actual border-crossing. Technically, a person has a right to refuse to answer questions and to refuse any search of his person or vehicle absent probable cause or a warrant at those remote check-points—even though administered by CBP agents—the rationale being that there is no “border” for them to control since the activities are being conducted well within the jurisdiction of a state).

Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) Checkpoints

The Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) is a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Whenever a gentleman passes through a TSA airport security zone, TSA agents may search his person or his belongings without probable cause or a search warrant.

Remaining Updated on Current Law

The laws pertaining to police interaction with private citizens are constantly being expanded, redefined, restricted, and reinterpreted. It is a gentleman’s responsibility to remain up-to-date on his legal rights and obligations. Organizations such as Flex Your Rights ( and American Civil Liberties Union ( and their international counterparts are excellent resources for informing the public of current developments in civil liberties.