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What are a driver’s rights in a traffic stop?

It can happen to anyone. When you see those red lights flashing behind you, your anxiety increases. You don’t know how this traffic stop will play out. Will the police find the marijuana that’s in the trunk? Will an officer assume you have drugs in your car because you are black?

Those are good questions, especially after the increased police brutality and racial profiling cases over the last few years. What every driver needs to know is what their rights are in these situations.

De-escalate tension

First, drivers who are pulled by police over want to de-escalate tension. That begins when you first see those flashing lights. You need to stay calm and move to the side of the road as carefully and quickly as possible. Then, roll your window down and greet the officer politely.

In addition, during a traffic stop, drivers want to keep their hands in view, not making any sudden moves. This includes letting an officer know if you legally are carrying a gun—without trying to reach for it.

Answering an officer’s questions

Officers often initially ask drivers, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” to see if they will incriminate themselves. If you find yourself in this situation, the best response is to say no. Officers also may ask drivers to submit to a car search, and again you can say no.

But if an officer believes a car matches the description of one used in a crime, they can ask for a search based on that, without a warrant. This is known as probable cause. Still, drivers can ask for their right to remain silent right and for attorney representation before consenting to a search. You will have stronger case if police don’t find any drugs in your vehicle than if you submit to a search and they find something you forgot was there.

If the officer smells alcohol on a driver’s breath or sees empty beer cans in the car, they can ask for a breathalyzer test for a DUI. Drivers can refuse, but that will make avoiding a conviction tougher.

Unfairly stopped

For drivers who feel police stopped them unfairly, they can ask if they are being arrested. If the officer can’t name a legitimate reason for the stop, a driver should be able to leave.

If you are facing DUI or drug charges because of a traffic stop, you need to consult an experienced criminal attorney. An attorney can help you prepare a strong defense to reduce or drop those charges.

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Thomas G. Fallis, P.A.
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Jacksonville, FL 32204

Phone: 904-717-6684
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