You may not know what you can and cannot do if the police stop you while driving. If you always abide by the law, you may not have seen any reason to learn about your rights.
Yet, each year people find themselves facing criminal charges that would never have occurred if they knew their legal rights.
A court might overturn a charge if the police breached your rights
Defending against criminal charges often comes down to legal technicalities such as did the police breach your rights. Here are four rights you have if the police stop you while driving:
- You have the right to remain silent: You will have seen this in movies, but you might not realize it is true. You do not have to say anything to a police officer when they stop your car. You have the right to sit there in absolute silence.
- You have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle: If the police want to search your car, they need a signed search warrant, or they need probable cause to believe you committed a crime and will find evidence. For example, if they stop you from a broken taillight, that does not give them the right to search inside your car. On the other hand, if you have a sack of cash and a balaclava on the back seat, that would be a reason to search. One area where people make mistakes is by replying yes when the police ask if they can search. Once you do that, you have given them your permission.
- You have the right to speak to an attorney: If you are unsure of where you stand, asking someone who knows can help.
- You have the right to leave: If the police are not arresting you, then you can ask if you may go. Make sure you ask; never assume.
The police officers who stop you need to comply with the law. If they refuse your rights, any case against you might not stand.