Stopped By A Cop? What You Should Know About Your Rights

Whether you are on your way home from work or taking a road trip, nothing puts damper on your day more than seeing those red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror. When this happens you know you should quickly, but safely pull over to the side of the road and wait for further instructions. But, are you aware of your rights? While most police officers are trustworthy, you need to know you rights so that a not-so-good cop doesn’t take advantage of you. 

You Have The Right To Certain Information

Sometimes criminals impersonate cops, so you have the right to make sure the person pulling you over is indeed a law enforcement officer. If you are unsure, ask the cop if you can see his or her photo ID, not just the badge. If the officer refuses or if you see the ID, but still aren’t convinced, ask the officer to call his or her supervisor or follow the officer to the nearest police station. 

You have the right to know why you were stopped. A police offer can only pull you over if he or she has reason to believe you are committing a crime or have committed a crime. A crime can include any number of things.

  • Expired license plate
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Reckless Driving
  • A non-working light
  • Speeding
  • Leaving the scene of a crime
  • Robbery
  • Murder

Whatever the reason, the officer must tell you why you were stopped. If he or she does not ask and inform the officer that it is your right to know. 

Your Rights Concerning Searches

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens and their belongings from unreasonable searches and seizures. Usually, law enforcement officers must obtain a search warrant to search a home, but you have less protection in your car. Why you were stopped plays a role in probable cause for searching your vehicle. If you were stopped because a headlight is out, this provides less probable cause than if you were stopped for reckless driving. 

If an officer sees something through your window, like an open beer or marijuana joint, he or she can search your entire car and take any evidence he or she finds. However, if an officer begins searching your car without probable cause, ask to see a search warrant. You don’t want to try to stop the search in progress, but you can challenge any seizures in court. 

In most cases, drivers are stopped and given a ticket or a warning for any number of possible traffic violations. However, there are times when things may get a bit more intense, so you need to understand your rights to avoid unlawful searches, seizures or arrests. Talk to a lawyer, such as Armstrong & Barrington PLLC, for more information.

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