Police stops always trigger reactions in people. Maybe you get scared because you think they stopped you for violating a traffic law or because they saw you do something you shouldn’t have. But sometimes, they are just stopping you because you came across a DUI checkpoint or a roadblock. Whatever the reason behind the stop, don’t panic and remember your rights.
What to do
Traffic stops are considered detention, so you should never leave if you see that a police officer’s car has its lights flashing behind you. Instead, pull over as soon as possible, and do the following:
- Turn off the engine, put your hands on the steering wheel and roll down the window.
- Stay in the car and wait until he comes over to talk to you.
- Keep your hands on the wheel until he asks you for your license and registration
- Step out of the car slowly only if they ask you to
Officers have a lot of power during a traffic stop, and not respecting that power can make a stop much more difficult.
When can they search your car?
Police usually won’t ask to search your car. They are not allowed to do so without a warrant unless:
- You get arrested
- They see drugs or alcohol bottles in the vehicle (called plain view doctrine)
- They think you have a gun or crime evidence in the car
If the officer asks to see your car, you must let him. However, if he asks you questions, it is always best to exercise your right to remain silent, as they could use anything you say against you.
Apart from remaining silent, you have the right to call a lawyer if you get arrested. The officer will let you make a call at the police station. If you call your lawyer, the police can’t listen to your conversation. However, they can and probably will listen if you call someone else, so be careful in what you tell them.