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What are your rights during any traffic stop?

Most adult drivers have experienced a common panic at one time or another. You therefore are likely familiar with the feeling of your stomach dropping after seeing police car lights twirling around immediately behind your vehicle. Even if you have been doing nothing wrong, being pulled over for a traffic stop can be uniquely intimidating. When you are talking to the police, you likely believe that you must do everything that they request of you. However, your civil rights protect you from many requests made by law enforcement during traffic stops.

Perhaps most importantly, you do not generally have to consent to a law enforcement search of your person or vehicle if the officers pulling you over do not have a warrant to conduct such a search. The exception to the warrant rule is probable cause on the part of the officer. When in doubt about whether or not you have to submit to a search of your vehicle, take a moment to call an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you do not consent to a search, simply tell the officers respectfully and directly that you do not consent.

In addition, it is worth noting that you have a right to film any traffic stop that you are subjected to. It is within your First Amendment rights to do so and your film may come in handy later in the legal process. However, it is important to avoid getting in the officer’s way or coming to close to him or her. Such behavior could land you in trouble for obstructing an officer.

Source: Findlaw Blotter, “Civil Rights During a Traffic Stop: 5 Reminders,” Brett Snider, July 29, 2013

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