Everyone has a tale about traffic stops. A traffic stop is one of our few opportunities to engage with a police officer for many of us.
Traffic stops are an everyday, often forgettable, duty for an officer. But it’s also one of the most hazardous since cops don’t always know whether they’re stopping someone on their way to work or someone who’s just committed a grievous crime and is prepared to go to any length to escape.
In the first quarter of 2020, the Asheville PD conducted over 2,000 traffic stops.
As a result, officers are trained to be exceedingly cautious and take advantage of whatever tactical edge they may uncover, no matter how insignificant in traffic stops.
It may feel unnecessary and inconvenient to have a flashlight shined in your eyes or have to twist your neck around to view a cop, but that is not the officer’s intention. They’re merely trying to keep as safe as possible.
A distinct problem is what people should know about the possible legal ramifications of a traffic stop. When the police stop a person for a traffic infraction, they are generally issued a citation. A traffic stop may result in a DWI / DUI, drug possession, or other violation being charged in some instances. Here are some fundamental aspects to remember while dealing with traffic stops.
Reasonable Cause for Traffic Stops
In an instance where a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a traffic infraction, they may initiate a traffic stop. For example, the officer may stop someone for:
- Failing to stop at a stop sign
- Failing to stop at a red light
- Expired vehicle tags
- Erratic driving behavior
This list is non-exhaustive but serves as a baseline for an officer to initiate a traffic stop.
What Should You Do When You’re Being Signalled to Pull Over?
You should pull over in a safe area if an officer activates their blue lights. Keep your hands on the steering wheel, remain in your car, and don’t make any abrupt moves.
Follow the officer’s directions to present your driver’s license and registration when he approaches your vehicle. In addition, promptly notify the police of any weapon in the car and give any accompanying permits (e.g., a concealed handgun permit).
Be Courteous and Respectful During a Traffic Stop
It is critical to always be patient and cooperative with the police. Before considering whether to grant the defendant a reduction, the prosecution may question the officer if the defendant was polite and accommodating during the stop.
You want the law enforcement officer to say “yes” when the prosecution asks about your behavior during the traffic stop.
What Should You Do if You Disagree With the Officer’s Judgment?
In court, your lawyer can address any issue. If you feel an officer was mistaken about what they observed that led to the stop, or if you believe an officer abused your rights, your attorney can bring these concerns to the judge’s attention. On the scene, a person who is aggressive or rude is not helping their predicament.
Stay cool and discuss the matter with your attorney. It has never helped the situation to become agitated or irritated while on the scene.
The Right to Remain Silent
In all instances, you have the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.
Each individual is protected from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.
Until a person is formally detained, an officer is not obligated to read someone their Miranda rights before asking basic inquiries (e.g., “Have you been drinking?”) during a routine traffic stop.
Consenting to a Vehicle Search
An individual can choose whether or not to consent to a search of their car by a police officer.
However, it’s important to note that an officer who detects a strong odor of marijuana emanating from a car has sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle, regardless of whether the occupant grants consent.
Following a drug dog alert on a car, law enforcement may search the vehicle. Furthermore, an officer who observes contraband in plain view when approaching a car has sufficient reasonable cause to search the vehicle.
Reasonable Cause to Conduct a Search
The United States Supreme Court decided in Rodriguez v. The United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), that a law enforcement officer may not continue a traffic stop without probable cause. For example, an officer who issues a speeding ticket and hands it to the motorist (ending the traffic stop) cannot prolong the encounter by having a drug dog sniff about the car unless the officer has reasonable suspicion that someone is using drugs.
If you’ve been pulled over, it can significantly increase your chances of a favorable outcome if you know what to do in the situation. However, the best way to secure your chances of avoiding a severe penalty is to have proper representation. Luckily, our team of legal experts is here to help you in your time of need. Contact us today for a free consultation.