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Ever been pulled over by the police? If so, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty that comes with it. What are your legal rights when pulled over? Do you have to answer the officer’s questions? Can you refuse a search? What happens if you get arrested?

Even the most law-abiding drivers can find themselves in a situation where a police officer pulls them over. While you may not be familiar with criminal law, it’s important to know your rights when interacting with law enforcement.

In this blog post, we will discuss the legal rights that you have when pulled over by a police officer. We will also provide some tips on how to handle yourself during a traffic stop. So, whether you’ve been pulled over before or are just preparing for the possibility, read on for helpful information.

If you have any specific questions about your own situation, be sure to consult a criminal defense attorney. For a free consultation, please contact us at (303) 529-2825. 

What are Your Legal Rights When Pulled Over?

Listed below are some of the rights that a police officer is obligated to uphold if you or a loved one are ever stopped.

The Right To Pull Over Safely

You may notice a police car trailing you on the highway or any other unsafe place to stop. If that ever happens, do not pull over just yet. Slow down to show the officer that you are obliging and drive until you get to a safe place for you and the officer.

An ideal stopping place would be away from oncoming traffic. If it is nighttime, be sure to find the nearest well-lit point. Once you have stopped your car, please do not attempt to leave it until the officer orders you out of your vehicle.

Remember to use your flasher to indicate your intention to stop. Otherwise, the officer might think you’re trying to be elusive.

The Right To Know Why You Were Pulled Over

You have a right to ask the officer why they pulled you over. A law enforcement officer has to have probable cause to pull you over. For instance, were you speeding, or was there a problem with your tail lights? The law requires the officer to explain your fault to you for whatever reason.

The Right To Be Informed of Your Miranda Rights

You’ve seen it in the movies: The police arrest a suspect and, before taking them into custody, read them their Miranda rights. But what do these rights actually mean?

Before arresting you or taking you into custody, a police officer should give you the “Miranda warning.” This warning summarizes your rights during an arrest. The officer should inform you of your right to contact an attorney and that the state can offer one if you cannot afford legal representation. Finally, they must tell you that whatever you say or do can be used against you in court. In general, your Miranda rights protect you from self-incrimination.

If an officer fails to inform you of your Miranda rights, notify your criminal law attorney immediately since their failure to inform you of your legal rights may tip the scales in your favor.

The law also demands that you verbally acknowledge that you understand your legal rights during an arrest. If you or your loved one do not speak English, the police officer arresting you must find a translator.

The Right To Remain Silent

You would be surprised by the number of people who made their case worse by speaking during an arrest. That is why any criminal defense lawyer will advise you to remain silent whenever a police officer pulls you over or arrests you.

One of the most fundamental elements of your Miranda rights is your right to remain silent during an arrest. However, some states require you to give the officer any identification details they may need, such as your name or license number.

The Right To Refuse To Consent to a Search

You also have a right to decline an unwarranted search from the police officer politely. This right also protects your belongings and car. However, if the officer has reason to suspect you of a crime, then this right may be overruled, and the officer will proceed to search your belongings.

If you have any visible weapons or drugs, that may be a reason for a further search. In some instances, the officer may use a trained police dog to sniff for drugs. If the dog discovers drugs in your belongings, this might be used to justify a search.

The Right To Refuse Sobriety Tests in the Field

If you do not want to, you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test.  However, you should know that refusing a sobriety test may have its disadvantages. Your refusal to take a sobriety test may negatively affect your license. It may also attract fines in the long run.

You may be asking what the big deal is with sobriety tests. First of all, you may fail a test even though you are entirely sober because most tests are not as accurate as they should be. Also, most law enforcement personnel lack the expertise necessary to conduct effective field sobriety testing.

And, if you’re under the influence of alcohol, do you really want to add to the evidence against you by taking the test? The best option is always to exercise your legal right, turn down the test, and contact a lawyer to discuss your options.

How To Behave When Pulled Over

Now that you know your legal rights when pulled over, here are some of the key things you should do so that you do not lose them. How you interact with the police will go a long way in determining whether you will be arrested or released. Here are some of the things that you need to do.

Keep Calm

It is easy to freak out when you hear the siren or see a police car tailing you through your side mirror. However, you should try your best to calm your nerves. In most cases, your interaction with the police officer may escalate if you are tense. Calmly answer the questions the officer may ask and politely stand for your rights if you need to. Being rude to the officer may only land you in further trouble.

Get Out of Your Car If Ordered

Contrary to what you might have read or heard on social media, you do not have the right to remain in the car once a law enforcement officer orders you to get out.

Remaining in your car after an officer has ordered you out may be seen as disrespectful and often be confused with resistance to arrest.

Take Note Of Everything The Officer Does

Be vigilant in everything that the police officer does. From the time they start following you to the time they either arrest or release you. This way, you will be able to narrate everything to your lawyer. If the police officer violates your rights, you will need to describe everything they did in court.

Keep Your Hands in Plain Sight

When the police officer is approaching you, chances are that they are also slightly nervous since they do not know your intentions. For all they know, you might be an armed criminal bent on escaping arrest. It pays to keep your hands where they can see them, preferably on your steering wheel. Do not make any sudden movements.

Avoid reaching into your pockets or under your car seats (even to get your license out) without notifying the police officer. Do not grab your safety belt, as this may give the police officer the impression that you have not been wearing it.

What Not To Do When Pulled Over

Even as you focus on the right things to do when pulled over, here are some things you ought not to do. Doing them will either legally implicate you or worsen the situation that you are already in.

Do Not Resist Arrest

Resisting arrest is a crime in most states. The law requires you to cooperate with law enforcement officers if they have reason to suspect you. They may arrest and take you into custody before filing charges against you.

While your first instinct may be to make a run for it, it is never a wise idea to do so. Resisting arrest will only worsen your situation and land you in further trouble. Cooperate with the officer, and once in custody, request to contact your lawyer.

Do Not Assault The Officer

One of the worst mistakes you can make when pulled over by a police officer is becoming violent. Assaulting a police officer is a federal crime that could land you in prison or have you paying hefty fines.

Keep your temper in check. No matter what the police officer does, please do not attempt to hit them. The court may sometimes interpret your hostility as proof of guilt. Be as gentle as you can.

Do Not Admit Fault

Whatever happens, never admit fault when pulled over. As we mentioned, whatever you say to the policeman may be used against you when proving your guilt. If the officer asks whether you know what you did wrong, politely decline and let them know you do not.

Listen as they explain your mistake to you, but don’t admit to it without consulting your lawyer first.

Get Your Defense From The Best

The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC offers you a haven for any criminal case you are charged with. We have the best criminal law attorneys who will represent you. Whether you are accused of driving under the influence or resisting arrest, we have all it takes to defend you and ensure a favorable outcome in your court case.

We know that everyone has legal rights despite the offenses that they commit. We are always there to ensure that the legal rights of any of our clients are fully met. Contact us today and let us build your defense team.


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