Many arrests and criminal prosecutions start when police stop a vehicle. Knowing your rights and how to respond to these stressful situations is important for your criminal defense.
Police can ask drivers to pull over if they see them commit any traffic offense such as a failure to signal or there are equipment violations such as a broken taillight or license light. When signaled, drivers should safely stop their vehicle. This should be in in a well-lit area or near people, if possible.
Place the vehicle in park, turn off the ignition and keep your hands visible on the steering wheel. Turn on the interior light if it is dark outside.
You must show your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, if requested. When police give you a ticket, you should sign it. The signature only shows that you received the citation and is not any admission of guilt. Do not argue about the ticket because you can appeal it later in traffic court.
You do not have to agree to a search of your vehicle, and you should politely object. Consenting to a search can later affect your rights in court.
If police search your vehicle despite your objection, do not resist or interfere with their search. Your attorney can later object to any seized evidence or complain about police conduct. Police may search the inside of your car if they have probable cause that a weapon is there or, if they arrest you, there is probable cause that there is evidence connected to that offense.
Police can pat down your clothing for concealed weapons if they suspect that you have one. You should not resist but politely state that you do not consent to any other searches.
You should take advantage of your right to refuse to answer any questions and stay quiet. Anything you say may be used against you in a prosecution.
You do not have to agree to a field sobriety test, comprised of physical tests, if you are stopped for suspected drunk driving. But you can be arrested, and your license will be suspended if you refuse to submit to a blood, urine or breathalyzer test.
You should not resist or obstruct police and remain quiet. You also need to speak to an attorney, who can help protect your rights, as soon as possible.