Know Your Rights When You’re Pulled Over
No one wants a surprise encounter with law enforcement on the road. Nevertheless, most of us have been pulled over at one time or another. As you ease to the shoulder, you should mentally prepare for the upcoming police interaction. Now, more than ever, it is essential that you understand your rights.
Goal One: Stay Safe
Alas, far too often a failure to signal or rolling through a stop sign can lead to a frightening exchange with police, particularly for men of color. That’s why you need to be smart while calmly and respectfully exercising your rights. The last thing you want to do is give reason for an officer to become jumpy or feel threatened. Rather, make the decision now to behave in a courteous manner, and do whatever you can to de-escalate any sense of threat.
- Start by turning off your vehicle;
- Activate an interior light to give the officer a clear view;
- Turn your radio off to make communication easier;
- Place your hands on the wheel in clear view, and instruct passengers to show their hands as well;
- Respond to requests for your identification, vehicle registration, and insurance information, and explain any movement you make in order to retrieve them;
- Obviously, do not resist arrest or try to flee, either on foot or in your vehicle.
Exercise your Rights
Hopefully, you’ll be issued your ticket and be on your way. Perhaps you’ll be detained, or even arrested. Either way, you and your passengers have the right to remain silent after providing the initial documentation requested. In the event you are questioned about your activities prior to the encounter, your plans going forward, your citizenship status, or any other topic, you need simply reply that you are exercising your right to remain silent. If a request is made to search your vehicle, you have the right to decline. Without probable cause, police have no right to search your possessions or vehicle (although they may conduct a pat down to determine whether or not you are carrying a weapon).
Following an Arrest
One unfavorable scenario might be your arrest. Whether or not you believe your rights are being violated, do not resist. You should now be informed of your legal Miranda rights. One important right is the right to an attorney, which you should immediately request, and keep quiet beyond that. Say nothing. Do not explain. Do not defend yourself. Sign nothing. When asked questions, respectfully repeat that you are exercising your right to remain silent and will continue to do so until your attorney is by your side.
You are entitled to one phone call. While calls to your attorney are supposed to be confidential, police have the right to listen in on any other conversations, and very likely will. So here, too, discuss the essentials, and save the details for your attorney in person.
Getting Legal Help
When a traffic violation leads to criminal charges, you want an ethical, yet aggressive attorney on your side. At HM Law, you can count on our La Plata & Waldorf criminal defense lawyers for help. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation.