Have you ever had a police officer pull you over? If so, you are not alone. About 50,000 drivers experience traffic stops over every day. That translates to over 20 million traffic stops each year.
Do you know what your rights are when getting pulled over? Many people do not even think about their rights. They are mostly scared and anxious.
It’s important to know your rights. Continue reading this article to learn more about your legal rights during a traffic stop.
What Are Your Rights When Getting Pulled Over?
While seeing the flashing lights in the mirror is stressful, it’s important to remain calm. Being educated about your legal rights can help you interact more effectively.
If the stop results in your arrest, the court may set an amount of bail which must be paid in order for you to go home. The purpose of bail is to ensure that you return for your trial. It is not a punishment for a crime.
1. Answering Questions
When the officer asks your name, tell him/her. The officer may arrest you for refusing to identify yourself. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born or your citizenship status.
If you choose to remain silent, state this fact out loud. This demonstrates that you are exercising your right to not answer questions.
Do not lie to the officer. If they ask if you are carrying contraband, you should answer “no” without hesitation (hopefully this is true). By law, you don’t have to answer questions that might incriminate you.
If you’re stopped at a routine DUI checkpoint and you’re sober, answer “no” when asked if you’re intoxicated. If you’re pulled over individually, you have the right to choose not to answer questions.
If the officer asks why you think he/she pulled you over, answer that you don’t know. It’s best to give the same answer if asked how fast you were going.
You may not know what infraction the police officer has pulled you over for. If you start giving answers, you may confess to something the officer didn’t know about. Your lack of answers will not change the evidence used to charge you with an offense.
2. Following Instructions
If the officer requests to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, you must comply. Do not give false documents to the officer.
Never run, resist, or obstruct an officer. Always keep your hands in full view of the police officer.
3. DUI Stops
When the traffic stop is for suspicion of DUI, it’s a little more complicated. You still have the right to withhold answers such as where you are going, where you came from, or your state of mind. Yet, if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, you can face serious penalties.
4. Police Searches
The police will ask to search your car if you’re pulled over for suspected DUI or possession of contraband. You can legally refuse the search unless the following conditions apply:
- The officer has specific evidence of criminal activity
- The illegal contraband is in “plain view of the officer”
- The officer has “probable cause” to conduct the search
- You have a prior record of an arrest for DUI or other offenses
- If the officer has reason to believe the evidence is in imminent danger of destruction
- If your vehicle was part of a serious incidence or accident and emergency services needs to enter the vehicle
The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizure of property by the government. This is the foundation of the law applying to search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, and forms of surveillance. When you give permission for a vehicle search, you waive this right.
5. Passenger Rights
Passengers have the same rights as the driver in most cases. The driver is considered responsible for all items in the vehicle. Passengers are not legally expected to know what is in the vehicle.
There are some exceptions:
- If the passenger owns the vehicle
- If the illegal items are within arm’s reach of the passenger
- If there is a clear indication that the item belongs to the passenger
The passenger may have further rights depending on the purpose of the traffic stop and ongoing investigations. For example, if the stop is for suspected DUI, the passenger is not required to submit to sobriety testing.
As a passenger, you should also remain calm and be polite. You should never interfere with police activity. Don’t resist arrest even if you think it’s not right.
Never run, make sudden movements, or disobey the officer’s instructions. You have the right to remain silent and are not required to answer questions or make any statements. If the officer tells you that you may leave, do so in a calm manner.
Safe Conduct During the Stop
When you stop your car, do so in a safe place. Try to exit or pull off the road so that no one is in danger of injury from another vehicle.
Police officers are trained to watch for unexpected movements that may indicate you might have a weapon. They will respond if they feel their safety is in danger.
You can prevent this concern by keeping both hands on the steering wheel while the officer approaches. If you are going to retrieve the requested items, be calm and tell the officer what you are doing. Be polite to the officer and comply with requests to exit the car or move to another location.
This behavior helps to ensure the safety of all parties involved in the traffic stop.
Do You Know What to Do if You Have Legal Problems?
Many people do not know what rights they have when getting pulled over. This article has explained your rights so that you are prepared if this happens.
If your legal issue leads to an arrest, you will often need the services of a bail bond company. Raleigh Bail Bonds has years of experience in the bail bond industry. We are available 24 hours a day to provide assistance.
We will help you gain your temporary freedom to return home. This gives you time to get a lawyer and prepare for your court date. Contact us today if you or someone you know needs help with securing bail.