For most of us, a traffic stop is an unpleasant but otherwise straight-forward interaction that we face with law enforcement from time to time. We are usually pulled over for violations like speeding or failing to observe a standard traffic law, and after we receive the citation we go about our day without giving the stop further thought beyond considerations for how to handle the ticket. In fact, most Americans don’t know what their rights are when they are stopped, and are often eager to comply with each demand the officer makes assuming that this will get them to their destination faster.
The Right to Prevent Self-Incrimination
Most Americans are not aware of their right to stay silent during police questioning. Aside from producing the valid documents they ask for and identifying yourself, you are not legally required to give them any information that would be used against you in court. You can let the officer know that you “choose not to answer that question.”
The Right to Avoid Consenting to an Unwarranted Search
Officers cannot search your car unless they have a warrant or probable cause. If you are pulled over for a broken tail light and the officer observes something suspicious during the stop, he may ask to check the car. However, during an average traffic stop, the officer may not search you without a warrant and you have the right to refuse a search in the event that he cannot produce a warrant. If you consent to a search, the officer has the right to search your car and at no time is the officer required to tell you about your right to refuse the search in the first place.
The Right to Record the Traffic Stop
A surprising right that most people do not know about is that in all 50 states it is completely legal to record police activity. While you may encounter an officer who is averse to this action, you have the right to record police interactions. Just as long as you do not obstruct the officer and make it difficult for him to carry out his duties, you may record your traffic stop. This is an important right to know, as having objective evidence of what took place can be valuable to your case.
If you have been pulled over as a DUI suspect, it is likely that law enforcement found reasonable suspicion to pull you over in your driving patterns. An illegal turn, drifting into the next lane, or swerving can all be red flags of a drunk driver. Actions of police officers can be challenged in court when they violate your rights. Call attorney Daniel J. Murphy, Jr. if you face DUI charges in Washington.