Knowing Your Rights at Traffic Stops
Getting pulled over can be a nerve-wracking experience, even when you have done nothing wrong. Law enforcement is often extremely intimidating for the average citizen. In these situations, many people believe consenting to the search of their vehicle is the best strategy, since it will show how honest and forthcoming they are. Consenting to a search, however, often waives important constitutional rights.
The ACLU has tips for motorists and passengers to keep in mind when stopped in a car;
- Pull over your car into a safe area as soon as possible.
- After you have pulled over, turn off your vehicle.
- Turn on your car’s internal light, partially open the window and place your hands on the steering wheel. This shows the officer that you are non-threatening.
- Promptly show the officer your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
- If an officer requests to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. If an officer has reason to believe your car contains evidence of a crime, it can be searched without your consent. However, it is important to convey your lack of consent.
- Drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you may ask the officer if you are free to leave. If the officer says no, it means you are in custody, but you have the right to remain silent.
- Never consent to a search of your car, home, or person. If a search would have otherwise been improper because law enforcement lacked a search warrant, your consent or lack of objection will validate the search. When a search is illegal, the “exclusionary rule” mandates that the fruits of that search be excluded from evidence used against a defendant at trial.
- Finally, do not argue with an officer. This will only escalate the situation, and you are at a distinct disadvantage.
If you have been accused of any crime, contact an Ohio attorney who understands the nuances of Fourth Amendment law and can vigorously defend your rights.