When you are pulled over by a police officer, it is easy to be nervous, anxious or intimidated even if you have done nothing wrong. It is important to understand your rights so you can take immediate action to protect them.
Here are four things you can say to police officers during a traffic stop that will help protect your rights:
Ask if you are free to go. An ordinary traffic stop should not take long. Once the officer has completed a check of your license and insurance and has issued any tickets, the traffic stop is generally over. If you sense that the police have completed their business with you, politely ask if you can leave. If the officer tells you that you are not free to go, you are under arrest. The police are now working to find incriminating evidence against you. Now is the time to remain silent, refuse searches and ask for an attorney.
Exercise your right to remain silent. You may feel extremely tempted to explain yourself, answer questions or keep talking just to be polite. Don’t do it. You have a right to remain silent — use it. If the police later attempt to reengage you, do not reengage. Simply restate that you intend to remain silent until you speak with your lawyer.
Say you don’t consent to any searches. Although you should remain silent for the most part, the police may ask for your consent to search you or your car. If you consent, the search is considered legal and any evidence found can be used against you. If you refuse consent, the police must rely on another legal reason to justify the search. It is in your best interest to refuse your consent to any search. If the officer tries to persuade you, ask for a lawyer. If the officer searches you or your car anyway, do not resist or interfere.
Ask to speak to your lawyer. If you are not free to go and the police are seeking to search you or your car, you are under investigation. The police likely now view you as a suspect and there is little you can do to persuade them otherwise. You risk serious trouble by continuing to discuss the situation with the police — and you have little to gain by doing so without an attorney.
It is possible that you will be arrested. Do not resist arrest or make any statement in order to avoid arrest. Even though you will be uncomfortable and may incur some expenses, you are still better off remaining silent and getting legal advice.