Although police usually stop a driver for committing a traffic violation, this does not mean that suddenly that driver loses all of his or her rights. When in the presence of a police officer at a traffic stop, it is crucial to understand what your rights are to ensure police do not overstep their boundaries. In general, it is best to abide by an officer’s requests so long as they are reasonable, up to a point.
For the best traffic stop outcome, remain calm and refrain from escalating the situation, yet never forget your most basic civil rights in the presence of law enforcement personnel. A dedicated criminal defense attorney works diligently to protect these rights at all times.
The Right to Remain Silent
You retain the right to remain silent and prevent yourself from self-incrimination throughout the entirety of any police encounter. If you are stopped, the officer must ask for you to identify yourself. It is perfectly valid to comply with this request and provide your driver’s license, registration and car insurance information. Beyond this, you are not legally required to continue to answer the officer’s questions or converse with him.
The Right to Refuse a Search
For a police officer to conduct a legal search, he or she must have probable cause. Probable cause refers to certain requirements an officer must meet before conducting a stop or placing a suspect under arrest. The officer must have a reasonable basis for believing that your property is connected to a crime. An officer cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause or a valid search warrant. Sometimes, a traffic stop may lead an officer to see, hear or smell something suspicious, which can establish probable cause. If at any point you are under arrest, the officer can search you or your car without your consent. If there is no probable cause but the officer insists on searching anyway, this can be addressed in court.
The Right to Record a Police Encounter
The ability to record an encounter with a police officer is now legal in all fifty states. So long as the interaction occurs on public property and the recording itself does not obstruct the officer’s duties, you are allowed to record your traffic stop despite any attempts the officer may make in getting you to stop.
The Right to Ask if you are Free to Go
Police officers cannot keep you at a traffic stop forever. After a citation is issued, you are generally free to leave the scene. Interactions with law enforcement should be brief and to the point. If an officer tries to keep you, you may always ask if you are free to go.
Breath and Blood Tests
In Florida, you can face consequences for refusing to take a breath or blood test if you are suspected of DUI. Per implied consent laws, you gave consent to take such tests when you applied for your driver’s license. If you refuse to take a breath or blood test, you face an automatic license suspension. There are times when a police officer may not have had sufficient probable cause to arrest you of DUI. In these cases, your best ally is a West Palm Beach DUI attorney.
The Right to an Attorney
If you have been arrested for DUI or a serious traffic-related offense, you need a competent lawyer to study all the aspects of your case. Whether you have been arrested for driving with a suspended license or hit and run, attorney Brian Gabriel will fight to defend these charges throughout South Florida. For a free legal consultation, call The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel at 561-622-5575.