What to Do If the Police Stop You for a Traffic Violation?
In California, most motorists will (or have been) stopped by a law enforcement officer at some point in their lives. Typically, most traffic stops are made for minor traffic violations and end in warnings rather than harsher tickets or arrests. Unfortunately, though, some routine stops quickly become serious when law enforcement officers become suspicious of the motorist. Sometimes, they suspect drivers of committing a more serious crime other than the traffic violation itself.
Therefore, it is essential to know our legal rights if, for some reason, you are stopped by law enforcement officers who become suspicious of you. If you are involved in a traffic stop that ended in an arrest, you must immediately speak to an experienced DUI attorney right away. Below, we have compiled a list of reasons why you may have attracted the police’s attention in traffic:
- A light is out (e.g., headlight, turn signal, brake light, taillight).
- Your license plate is expired or wrongly-placed on your vehicle.
- You have something hanging off your rearview mirror, or your windshield is blocked in general.
- You tossed something out of your windows, such as a cigarette or trash.
- You were speeding or recklessly driving.
Your Rights at a Traffic Stop
It’s not uncommon for people to feel stressed or frightened when stopped by police. Even worse, some law enforcement officers take advantage of their position of power and treat people poorly (and, in some cases, illegally). So, you must know your rights if you ever find yourself stopped in traffic. During a traffic stop, you have the right to remain silent, as well as the right to have an attorney with you during any interrogation. When you notice that an officer signals for you to stop, you should pull over to the right side of the road, away from any other traffic. Then, you should:
- Keep your hands in view on top of your steering wheel. You should wait until they ask you to retrieve your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
- Ask the officer if you are able to leave (once it is appropriate).
- If they tell you that you are not free to go, you should then ask, “For what reason are you detaining me?”
- Remember that it is your right to remain silent. You can let the officers know by saying, “I choose to exercise my right to remain silent.” They cannot arrest or detain you for exercising this right.
- Do not consent to a search. Although some officers may try to search anyway, make sure to clearly state, “I do not consent to a search.”
- Cooperate with the officer if you are receiving a ticket. You have to provide your name, date of birth, and signature on the ticket. Failure to do so may result in an arrest.
- Refrain from expressing disrespect or attitude.
- Do not attempt to run or physically resist a body search or “pat-down.” You should clearly state, “I do not consent to a search.”
- Do not lie. Instead, exercise your right to remain silent.
- Understand that police officers have the legal right to lie and intimidate you.
- In the unfortunate case you are arrested, ask the officer if you can park your car safely or at least, have a friend drive it away. If this does not happen, you will have to pay towing and impound fees.
What If the Police Wants to Test You for a DUI?
Submit to a test if the police want to test you for driving under the influence (DUI). It is important to note that you are not legally required to submit a DUI test in California unless you are formally taken into custody, you are under 21, or you are currently on probation for DUI. However, remember that refusal to submit to a DUI test will only increase your chance of being arrested. You can always submit to the DUI test and later have a criminal defense attorney fight the results. It is also crucial to remember that in California, your driver’s license will be suspended for one year for the refusal to submit to a DUI test following a formal arrest.
If law enforcement officers have reason to believe you are carrying a weapon, they can legally search you on the spot without a warrant. This law is in place to give officers the right to protect themselves from harm. If the police officers find any illegal drugs, stolen property or cash, or weapons on you, any evidence can be used against you in a court of law. They are also legally allowed to search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe there is any evidence of a crime. Again, anything found in a search can be used against you. Lastly, the police can legally search your vehicle without a warrant if they impound it.
How Can I Avoid Trouble?
While this may seem obvious, you should never attempt to bring a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop. You should also avoid trying to make light of the situation, as most police officers will not care for the humor. Keeping your car tidy is also a good idea because people tend to hide illegal items, such as guns and drugs, under piles of mess. Refrain from hanging anything on your rearview mirror or blocking any part of your windshield and vision. Try not to have loud music playing when the officer approaches your vehicle.
It is essential to be as kind as cooperative as you can be. Law enforcement officers have lost their lives performing routine traffic stops, and when they pull you over, they will not assume the best for their safety. So, to best keep the traffic stop safe and productive for you and the officer, it is best to be cooperative and friendly. This will put the officer at ease and you in the best position to go home safely.
If you would like to learn more about your legal rights during traffic stops, call the Law Office of David Leicht at (760)256-3104 for a free consultation today.The Law Office of David Leicht serves the California communities of Barstow, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto, Baker, Needles, Lucerne Valley, Big Bear, San Bernardino, Mojave, Phelan, and Wrightwood.