It’s a situation that makes anyone’s heart race: you see the infamous blue and red lights behind you and you know that you’re being pulled over. Your mind begins to race, wondering what you did to trigger this. Even when you don’t think you have done anything wrong, it can be nerve-wracking at best and gut-wrenching at worst to be pulled over.
No matter what the officer alleges you did, you do have rights at a traffic stop. Knowing these rights before you get pulled over can help protect you from having them violated. If you have been charged with a traffic violation or other crime after being pulled over, but you think your rights were violated, you need to speak with a Houston criminal defense attorney sooner rather than later. When an officer crosses the line, you may be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed entirely with the help of a Houston criminal defense attorney.
What Officers Can Ask
When you’re pulled over, the police officer will usually come up to your side of the car and request to see your identifying information. This is not out of the ordinary, and this is a major reason why you should have your driver’s license in your wallet and your insurance and registration details nearby.
Police officers can ask for this information, but you do not have to answer questions such as “Have you been drinking?” or “Where are you headed?”, but you should always be polite even when declining to answer. Staying calm on the scene is critical for minimizing the chances that the situation could escalate.
If police officers have a reasonable fear regarding your actions or behavior, they can ask you to step outside of your vehicle. Although you may not agree with their decision to ask you to do this, the street is not the time or place to get into an argument with an officer. These are the kind of details, however, that you should share with your Houston criminal defense attorney. If you refuse to step out of the vehicle, officers could force you.
Can I Record an Officer?
The officer may ask that you not record him or her, and they are within their rights to request this if their safety is in question. However, it’s a good idea to record things just in case. After all, police vehicles come equipped with their own recording equipment, and many departments feel like it’s only fair to allow you to record things as well.
What You Should Know About Search and Seizure
When you’re pulled over by a police officer, he or she only has cause to search you or your vehicle if there are significant reasons to do to. They need an indication that you are doing something illegal in order to search you. The most popular reason that an officer has probable cause on the road is that he or she thinks you are violating a traffic law.
If you have already been given a ticket or a warning by the officer, then you are free to leave. The police may ask your consent to search your vehicle at this time, but you do not have to agree to these. If you do give the police your consent to search, however, this means that they can now search anywhere in your vehicle. They do not have an obligation to return this to you in the same condition, either. This is why it is strongly recommended that you exercise your rights and decline the search.
What Should I Do if My Rights Were Violated?
If you believe your rights were violated at a traffic stop, contact your Houston criminal defense attorney to learn more about how this may impact your case and your next steps. Hiring an attorney as soon as possible will help to clarify the key legal issues in your case.