At some point in their lives, almost everyone is bound to be pulled over by the police at least once. Even the most law-abiding drivers may unknowingly have a tail light out or just by pure coincidence be driving the same vehicle as a reported criminal. Many individuals are unaware of what their rights are when they’re pulled over or may have been misinformed at some point as to what their rights are. Here are some of the essential rights you do, and don’t, have when you get pulled over:
You Have the Right to Stop Safely
When the police officer pulls up behind you and hits their lights and sirens it is crucial that you slow down promptly so they’re aware that you are heeding their call to pull over. Once you’ve done this, though, you are allowed to drive to find a space that is safe to pull over. Obviously, you should find the nearest, most practically safe place to pull over as leading the cop on for miles to “find a safe place” might not go over well. If you’re driving down a regular road, this can mean waiting until you can pull into a parking lot or if you’re on the highway, finding a safe place on the shoulder. Because pulling over to a safe place is also helping to ensure the officer’s safety, they are likely to be understanding.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Being pulled over is more or less the same as all police encounters when it comes to your right to remain silent. The only information that you are required to provide is your license, registration, and insurance information. Past this basic information, all of which can be provided without speaking, you have the right to remain completely silent. That being said, however, remaining completely silent may make the situation unnecessarily tense. As such, it’s generally advisable to be polite and courteous while also taking care to not saying anything incriminating and politely refusing to answer any questions that you feel may lead to incriminating answers.
You DO NOT Have the Right to Stay in Your Car
Despite what you may have heard, you do not have the right to stay in your car if the police order you out. This applies even if you are a passenger in the vehicle. The Supreme Court of the United States has decided in two cases that both drivers and passengers may be ordered out of their vehicles in the course of an ordinary traffic stop. The Court’s rationale is that the need for officer safety outweighs the limited burden and intrusion caused by making the driver and passengers step out. As such, if an officer orders you out of the vehicle, be sure to calmly comply.
You Have a Right to Refuse Searches, But They May Still be Able to Search
Generally speaking, a police officer must ask for your consent before searching your car. There are, however, several exceptions. First and foremost, if the officer has probable cause for a search, then he or she may conduct the search without consent. For example, if the officer approaches the vehicle and smells a strong odor of drugs, they may have probable cause to search the vehicle. Second, anything in the officer’s plain view can be used as probable cause to justify a further search. For example, if the officer walks up and sees a joint in your cup holder or ashtray, he or she may have probable cause to search the rest of your car. Third, as long as the officer doesn’t unnecessarily extend the duration of the traffic stop for the purposes of a search, the police can walk a drug-sniffing dog around your car without your consent. If they ask to search your car with a drug-sniffing dog, though, you are free to refuse, but they may do so anyway. If the dog alerts to the presence of drugs, then the police will have probable cause to search the rest of your car. But never consent to the search if you have anything to hide.
It’s been said many times that you can’t talk your way out of a ticket, but you can certainly talk your way into one. Being polite and staying calm can help defuse the interaction between you and the police. If you suspect that the police are violating your civil rights, such as searching your car without consent, don’t get hostile because this will not help you at all. Simply take note of what they are doing so if and when you are charged with a crime, you can raise the defense that your civil rights were violated and possibly get the evidence being used against you suppressed.
If you have been charged with some crime subsequent to a traffic stop or feel that your civil rights have been violated by the police during the course of a traffic stop, be sure to contact an experienced like the ones at Meldon Law. Contact us today at 800-373-8000.
Jeffrey Meldon and Carey Meldon have written a book “A DUI Guide for Alachua County.” Based on Jeffrey and Carey’s over 60 years of experience, this guide will help educate the reader on possible ways to avoid being charged and convicted of DUI in Alachua County! You can download it for free at MeldonLaw.com or call us at 800-373-8000 and we will send you a free copy!
703 North Main Street Suite A
Gainesville, FL 32601