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What rights do I have when police pull me over?

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2023 | Criminal Law |

Encountering law enforcement can be terrifying. Law enforcement officers play a critical role in our society by preventing crime and apprehending wrongdoers. However, they might pull over a few innocent civilians in the process. If police officers stop you, know that they must uphold your rights.

A violation of your rights could result in the potential dismissal of any charges brought against you. It could also provide you with grounds for a lawsuit and trigger disciplinary action against the offending officer.

What should I do if I am being pulled over?

When you see police lights flashing behind you, slow down and bring your vehicle to a safe stop. Roll down your window and keep your hands visible on the steering wheel. It is very important to stay calm and avoid arguing with the officer.

Do I need to answer the officer’s questions?

The police will ask you questions, but you can remain silent save for your name. After initial questioning, respectfully ask if you are free to go.

If you are arrested, you have the right to know for what crime. Make a mental note of their police badge and license plate number, as you might need them later. If interrogated at the station, you can invoke your right to a lawyer and remain silent.

Can I ask why the officer stopped my car?

Police officers need probable cause before stopping your car, but they can choose not to tell you why. However, they must provide the reason if you are taken to court.

Can I record the police officer?

You have the right to take photos, videos or audio recordings in any public place. If you believe the police officer has violated your rights, recording the incident could be crucial.

Unless they have a warrant, the law prohibits them from seizing your device or forcing you to erase your recordings. Politely reminding them of your rights might get them to pull back. However, if the situation becomes hostile, it may be best to cooperate and look into filing a complaint later.

Can a police officer search me or my car?

Without your consent or a warrant, police officers cannot search you or your car. Make sure to assert your rights to avoid giving the impression that you accept.

What can I do if they violate my rights anyway?

Even when you assert your rights and cooperate fully, the police may still disregard your rights. It will be frustrating, but keeping your emotions in check is crucial. Expressing anger could escalate the situation.

Instead, wait for the appropriate opportunity to file a complaint and consult a legal professional. This way, you can effectively address the issue through the proper legal channels and avoid endangering yourself.