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How to protect your legal rights during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2024 | Criminal Law

Your first emotion when a police officer stops your vehicle may be anxiety and fear. Your mind might be racing with several questions: Why are you being stopped? How should you act when the police start asking you questions? What can and can’t the police do to you? 

You may feel calmer by understanding your constitutional rights. You can protect yourself from serious criminal charges if you understand your rights during a traffic stop. Here’s what you should know:

Understand your right to refuse questions

The police will often begin an investigation by asking you questions. These questions are used to see if you would admit to violating traffic laws. An officer may, for example, ask if you’ve been drinking or using substances, where you were driving to or if you understand why you are being pulled over. You can assert your Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to answer questions that might lead to self-incrimination. By pleading the Fifth, you are still cooperating with the police even if you are unwilling to answer questions. 

Learn when the police can search your vehicle 

Another way for the police to gather evidence is by searching vehicles. A vehicle may contain alcohol, drugs or weapons that could incriminate a driver. However, the police must have probable cause before they can search a vehicle. Under the Fourth Amendment, the police would need a warrant before they can conduct a search. Or, they could visually see evidence from outside the vehicle, gain permission from a driver or make a lawful arrest before conducting a search. 

If you don’t understand your legal rights, there’s a higher chance that you could face a severe criminal conviction and penalties. By getting legal help, you may be able to create a strong legal defense. 

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