It’s a situation every driver dreads: you’re riding along the road, minding your own business, when suddenly you see flashing red and blue lights behind you. You hope the lights and siren are meant for someone else, but when you slow down and pull over the officer pulls up right behind you.
Most drivers will experience a traffic stop at some point, and the vast majority proceed without incident—a significant majority of traffic stops are for minor infractions, not for actual crimes. Still, it’s worth knowing exactly what your rights are when you’re pulled over by police. Here’s some helpful information from a criminal attorney in Lubbock, TX:
- “Reasonable suspicion:” Police do not need to be able to prove you’ve committed a crime to pull you over—they only need “reasonable suspicion.” This essentially means that if a police officer suspects you’ve done something wrong, it is within the law for them to pull you over. Keep in mind, though, that there are limits to this reasonable suspicion. An officer should not be allowed to hold you for longer than a few minutes merely on the basis of reasonable suspicion. Only when further evidence is uncovered during the traffic stop can they claim to have probable cause that you have committed a crime.
- Probable cause: So, what exactly is probable cause? This is a term that refers to there being a reasonable belief that you have committed a crime. For example, if an officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, then smells alcohol on your breath when you roll down the window, they have probable cause that you’ve committed a DUI, allowing them to take further action to investigate and to charge you with a crime.
- Right to silence: An officer will ask you for your driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration when they pull you over, and you are required by law to provide all of this information. You are also required by law to show your handgun license, if you have one—this acts as a means of disclosing that you have weapons in the vehicle. It’s a good idea to let the officer know where those weapons are located. You are not required to answer any questions beyond that.
- Exiting the vehicle: If the police officer asks you to exit your vehicle, you are required to do so. Otherwise, you should remain seated in the vehicle with your hands on the wheel or otherwise visible.
- BAC testing: You are not required by law to submit to BAC testing. However, it is almost never to your advantage to refuse to take such a test—your license will automatically be suspended if you do so, and it will actually be harder to form a defense for your case.
- Recording: You do have the right to record the traffic stop, whether or not the officer gives you permission. However, keep in mind that if the situation becomes tense, this could escalate the situation needlessly, as you cannot control how the officer will interpret your filming.
For more information about your rights when pulled over, contact a criminal lawyer in Lubbock, TX at the Law Office of Rob Biggers today.
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