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When you are pulled over by a police officer, it is important to understand your constitutional rights and what to do in order to protect yourself. Although the exact laws vary from state to state, there are some general rights that apply across the board when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer.
This article will provide an overview of basic rights when stopped by a police officer, address common questions about what you can and can't do during a traffic stop, and describe how to respond if you are stopped or arrested.
You Have the Right to Ask Why You Were Pulled Over
When it comes to being pulled over, most of us immediately know why the officer has stopped us; we were going over the speed limit or were tapping our brakes too often, among many other minor traffic violations. However, there are instances where you've been driving completely by the law yet still find yourself in the spotlight of a police officer's car. In these situations, it is perfectly within your rights to inquire why you've been pulled over.
You Have the Right to Know Your Miranda Rights
Unless you carry around a pocket-sized version of the Miranda Rights at all times (which is impossible), most people are not able to recite them verbatim if asked. The good news is that if a cop plans on making an arrest they are legally required to read out loud your Miranda Rights.
This ensures that any statement made after those rights are read aloud cannot be used in court as evidence against you. Knowing this, try to stay calm and request for the officers to recite the constitutional law of the United States pertaining to your rights before further speaking.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
The right to remain silent is an invaluable aspect of the Miranda Rights granted to us by our criminal justice system. This right provides us with the opportunity to not be forced into providing any self-incriminating information to law enforcement personnel and helps protect our rights as suspected criminals.
When exercising your right to remain silent, you may still face consequences such as being taken into custody or having the officers operate under the assumption that you are guilty until proven innocent.
However, remaining silent and declining to answer questions during a police encounter can reduce one's chances of incriminating oneself by saying or doing something in a moment of panic or stress. Above all else, it is important for suspects of criminal activity to remember that they have the right to remain silent and use it whenever they feel necessary or unsafe.
You Have the Right to Ask Whether You Can Go
When interacting with an officer from law enforcement agencies, especially in a non-arrest situation, it is important to remember that you have the right to ask if you are able to leave. No officer has the authority to detain you indefinitely without cause. Therefore, asking whether or not you can go is one way of asserting your rights when stopped by an officer.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Search
The right to refuse a search is an important cornerstone of freedom that all citizens should know and understand. This right originates from the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects people from illegal searches. If a police officer stops you and asks if they can search your car or person, you have the right to refuse this request.
Learn More: When Can Police Search Your Car?
It is important to note however that officers are exempt from needing your consent in certain scenarios. For example, if illegal materials are in plain sight or there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity occurring, then an officer does not need your permission to perform a search of either yourself or your vehicle. However, failing any of these exemptions, it’s critical that you exercise your right to protect yourself against unlawful and unreasonable searches.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Breathalyzer Test
The right to refuse a breathalyzer test or field sobriety test is something that every driver should be aware of. However, drivers should be aware that there may be consequences for refusing these tests depending on state laws. In states with “implied consent” laws, drivers may face suspension of their license for six months for refusal.
Even further, if officers suspect drunk driving or drug use, they may take you to the police station for a blood sample regardless of consent. It is important to stay informed and know your options when it comes to breathalyzer and field sobriety tests.
Common Questions About Your Rights When Being Pulled Over
Some common questions people have regarding police stops include:
Can you record the police during an interaction?
It's important for individuals who feel they are being pulled over unjustly to understand their rights and take action accordingly. All citizens have the right to record police officers on their cell phones or cameras while in public spaces.
Therefore, it is within a citizen’s right to record the encounter on video or audio recording devices in order to document the behavior of police officers during a traffic stop. When done appropriately, this can help offer protection against police misconduct as there will be documented proof of any conversations that occur during this time.
Are you legally required to get out of the car if an officer tells you to?
While in an encounter with police, many drivers may wonder if they are legally required to exit the car on request. In most cases, drivers are not required to do so under the law, though resisting to get out of the car is not recommended in order to avoid further escalation of the situation.
This is because the officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle in order to ensure their safety, including possibly that no weapons have been brought into the car.
It is ultimately up to your discretion whether or not you decide to step out of the car if the officer asks you, but complying generally proves beneficial when interacting with police officers during traffic stops.
Do police have to tell you why they pulled you over before asking for ID?
In many cases, police are not legally required to tell you why they pulled you over before asking for ID. This means that the officer must have a valid reason for the traffic stop according to their own code of conduct. The officer is also liable to provide their reasons for the stop if taken to court. This can vary by department and jurisdiction, and citizens should be aware of the specifics in their respective area.
How You Should Respond if You're Pulled Over
Taking measures to reduce the risk of harm to yourself when engaging with law enforcement is important. It is necessary to remain calm and comply fully in order to avoid any unnecessary confrontation or violence.
As a basic rule of thumb, always keep your hands where law enforcement can see them. Similarly, do not run, resist, or obstruct officers as this could be interpreted as attempting to flee and lead to serious consequences. Additionally, ensure you never lie or provide false documents when speaking with police, which may also result in criminal charges.
Listen carefully to all instructions given by police and attempt to stay compliant while exercising your right to remain silent if needed. Transparency and cooperation can go a long way toward de-escalating tense situations and keeping everyone safe during the encounter.
If feeling uncertain or threatened at any point throughout the engagement seek legal counsel immediately if an opportunity presents itself or after a safe departure from the scene. Knowing how best to protect yourself from unwarranted harm is essential for developing healthy relationships between law enforcement and citizens alike.
What You Should Do if You're Arrested
If you are taken to a police station or arrested, it’s important to remember your rights. You have the right to remain silent and make a phone call. You should talk to a lawyer before speaking with the police. You should only give them your name and address if asked; don’t provide any explanations, excuses, or stories.
It’s best to make your defense later when appearing in criminal court with your lawyer – this gives you the chance to think through what you feel is the best response.
If you can afford one, you should ask for your lawyer immediately – they are better equipped than you are for advising on how best to handle an arrest situation. Knowing that there is someone on your side who understands the law is immensely beneficial in navigating this type of situation with confidence.
If you have been arrested and desire legal counsel or if you have additional questions, our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Touma Law Group can assist you. Call our Greenville office today at (846) 618-2323.