At some point in our lives, most of us are pulled over by the police at least once. Even most law-abiding drivers may unknowingly have a blown tail light or just driving the same vehicle as a reported crime. Many individuals are unaware of what their rights are when they’re pulled over. 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
Unlike what you may have heard, you do not have the right to stay in your car if the police officer orders you out of the vehicle. This applies even if you are a passenger. The Supreme Court of the United States decided in two cases that both drivers and passengers may be ordered out of their vehicles in the course of a traffic stop. The 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, DO IT.
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO REFUSE SEARCHES, BUT THE POLICE MAY STILL BE ABLE TO SEARCH
Generally, a police officer must ask for your consent before searching your car. There are, however, several exceptions. First, 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 marijuana, they could have probable cause to search the vehicle.
Second, anything in the officer’s plain view/sight can be used as probable cause to justify a further search. For example, if the officer walks up and sees a beer in your cup holder, 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.
STAY CALM, BE POLITE
Being polite and staying calm can help defuse the interaction between you and the police officer. If you suspect that the police are violating your rights, such as searching your car without consent, do not get hostile because this will not help at all. Simply take mental note of what they are doing so if and when you are charged with a crime, you can raise the defense and possibly get the evidence being used against you suppressed.
CALL US TODAY!
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 Contact us today at 706-546-0999. Our Athens Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers can assist you today!