Know Your Rights

Let’s say you are speeding home, and the police decide to pull you over. Not good, but what if they weren’t concerned with the speeding and just wanted an excuse to search your car? What rights do you have then?

You see, cops can’t just randomly stop you and look for drugs in your car without a reason or a “probable cause”, like a broken tail light or speeding. However, cops don’t need to ticket you for speeding to provide a probable cause for the stop, their notes on the situation would suffice in the court of law.

Seems troubling right? It’s as if the officers ability to pull you over and “fish” for concrete evidence, in order to investigate further and eventually charge you with a crime, is greater than yours to resist; and it is. Many don’t know that. The officer could easily look through you windows for booze, drugs, and weapons- and any whiff or visual element that presents you as under the influence, or even suspicious, can subject you to intense-pressured questions. These questions are intended to forfeit information and that’s where most people give up their rights. Whether or not you have ever gotten high or drunk in your life, you do not have to answer any of these questions. Proceed to give your license and registration, and await for the officers official reason for pulling you over.

A cop can only search your car without a warrant for these 5 reasons:

1) If you consent the police will naturally have a right to search your car.

2) “Plain view” or having drugs in open sight also gives an officer the okay to search your car.

3) Basically, if an officer arrests you with probable cause, he or she can then search your vehicle.

4) Your car can be searched if an “officer has probable cause to suspect a crime”, which is something blatant as blood stains or the smell of dead bodies; but can be minor like ripped clothing, or even a black eye.

5) Lastly, “exigent circumstances,” allow a warrant-less search. Before an officer receives a warrant, he can “break every rule if he suspects the evidence is about to be destroyed”; but this happens more so in residence situations than vehicles.

Any of these 5 reason will enable the police to search your car, but some limits apply to the areas they can search- yet the “plain sight” exception applies- which means what they see can be charged against you. Although it is within your legal right to stay in your car, it is also best to comply when a officer asks you to exit the vehicle, so they aren’t suspicious of hidden weapons.

Now, not all cops are looking to incriminate you, but that doesn’t mean that attitude and effort doesn’t exist. There are extremes on both ends, and you should still comply as much as possible because it is the law, but don’t compromise what protects you. That includes when you get pulled over, but can’t for the moment. It’s obvious you should still pull over when you can safely, and to notify the officer with a hand signal while driving the speeding limit; but make sure it’s sooner than later so you won’t upset the officer and end up with a plethora of tickets instead of one to none. Moreover, it’s imperative that drivers do stop at police checkpoints. The Police department plans these checkpoints ahead of time, with a specific plan to stop every other car. In many jurisdictions, officers who file the most DUI arrests are given awards.

Lastly, when you get your driver’s license, you do agree to the states law on the requirement of a breathalyzer test. You can still technically refuse a breathalyzer when a officer requests one, but in many states you could get your license suspended or even spend a night in jail if you do.

Where all of this really counts though, is not on the side of the road, but in the court of law. You can be charged with a DUI, and still may be over the legal limit, but in the end it’s up to the attorney/prosecutor to prove that the officer had reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to stop you in the first place. For instance, if you were illegally pulled over, and your driving was impeccable (nothing wrong), and there is evidence to prove it- the DUI charge can be thrown out.

Whether this is viewed in a positive or negative light, it’s important to know the facts about what can happen when you are pulled over.

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