Unfortunately, the majority of Americans do not know any of their rights, especially when it comes to a traffic stop. Here is a step by step guide on how to assert your constitutional rights and deal with police during a traffic stop. This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.
1. ALWAYS turn off your vehicle and put both hands on the steering wheel after being pulled over. Do not roll your window down more than half way to avoid the officer sticking his noise in the car and claiming he smells something. If the officer demands you roll the window down all the way it may be a good decision to do so.
2. When the officer asks “why did I pull you over,” never give up your 5th amendment right by incriminating yourself. Never say something like “I think I was speeding.” There is no need to confess anything. If you can, ask why the officer pulled you over before he asks any questions.
3. If you are ever asked to step out of the vehicle, ALWAYS roll up your window, lock your door and close it behind you. If you leave the door wide open the officer is likely to use the opportunity to search.
4. An officer has a right to give you a pat-down for safety reasons once out of the vehicle, but you should NEVER CONSENT TO A POLICE SEARCH OF YOUR VEHICLE. Whether you are inside or now standing outside of your vehicle, the first thing you should say once an officer starts asking questions is “AM I BEING DETAINED OR AM I FREE TO GO?“
5. If the officer asks to search your vehicle your only answer should be “I DO NOT CONSENT TO ANY SEARCHES OFFICER.” The officer will do all he can to get you to waive your rights by threatening to call the K9 Unit. Despite the officer’s claims, refusing a search is NOT probable cause for the officer to search your vehicle. Unless an officer sees an illegal item in plain view or has a reasonable suspicion that there is something illegal in the car, he can’t search your vehicle. IF THEY HAVE TO ASK, THEY LIKELY DON’T HAVE PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH. You have NOTHING to gain if you approve to a search.
6. No matter how much pressure an officer puts on you, continue asking “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” If the officer says your being detained, ask him what crime you have committed. If he doesn’t have an answer for you continue asking the question until you are told you are free to go.
7. Never get out of your vehicle unless instructed to do so. Never speak unless you need to. Never leave the scene until the officer grants you permission. Never touch an officer. ALWAYS film police encounters when you are able to. If an officer searches your vehicle illegally, remember all the details and file a complaint as soon as possible.