Traffic stops happen all the time. According to the Bureau of Traffic Statistics, speeding was the most common reason for why drivers were pulled over in 2011.
During traffic stops, many drivers inadvertently give up valuable information. A police officer is not going to inform drivers of all their rights. Instead, it is prudent to become informed so that future traffic stops have a greater likelihood of working out in your favor.
Right to pull over when it is safe
You may see the flashing lights but are not in a place where you can pull off safely. You are within your rights to wait until it is safe. However, you should make attempts to pull over as soon as possible. If it will be a while, try to signal to the officer. Otherwise, officers can put additional infractions on the table.
Right to refuse a search
Police cannot search a car at their leisure. One of the following pieces of criteria need to be met for a search to take place:
- If the officer has probable cause to suspect a crime is taking place or already has
- If a piece of evidence, such as a bag of marijuana, is in plain view
- If the driver gives consent for the officer to search the vehicle
- If there are exigent circumstances, such as the officer believing destruction of evidence could take place
- If the officer has a warrant
Without one of these present, you can refuse to allow a police search.
Right to record an interaction
You are fully within your rights to record interactions with the police. The only caveat is that the recording cannot interfere with the officer’s traffic stop. As long as the camera or recorder is not directly in the officer’s face, it should be fine.
The best advice is to cooperate during any traffic stop. In the event of a violation of your rights, you can pursue action later in court.