If you get pulled over by a police officer, you’re likely to assume a number of things are going to happen. However, in many cases, these assumptions are not correct. There are a lot of misunderstanding people have about getting pulled over. Unfortunately, if you follow common assumptions about getting pulled over, you may end up getting arrested, even if you are innocent. That’s why it’s important that you understand what’s real and what is assumed. As long as you’re informed about how being pulled over works and what an officer can and can’t do, you’re much more likely to avoid being arrested.
Remember, you have rights, and you are always free to exercise those rights even when talking to an officer. It’s important that you take advantage of your rights. Understanding the following common misconceptions will aid you in avoiding wrongful arrest.
Officers simply cannot pull over whoever they want, whenever they want. They must have some kind of reason to do so beyond their own suspicions. For example, if you run a red light, they can pull you over. If you are driving in a safe yet somewhat unusual manner (driving very slowly, for example, as if you’re being extremely cautious), they can’t pull you over on a suspicion of drinking. You have to have been speeding, have a light out, ran a red light, or did something else that puts you and other drivers in danger or clearly violates the law.
If they pull you over and can’t give you a reason why, ask if you’re free to go. If they can’t provide a reason as to why they’ve stopped you, they have no reason to keep you pulled over.
Your car is your private property. Officers cannot simply demand to search your vehicle without any reason. They can ask, and you can agree, but they cannot open any doors or the trunk without your approval or a warrant. The only time they can search your vehicle without a warrant is if you have done something to provide probable cause. This means they would need to see an open container of alcohol or smell alcohol on your breath. Any minor violation such as speeding or having a light out is not enough to give them probable cause.
Remember that you have a right to refuse an officer’s request to search your vehicle. It doesn’t mean you’re guilty, and it’s not an admission of anything. All you’re doing is exercising your rights under the Fourth Amendment. If the officer searches your car after you have refused, it’s likely that the evidence will be thrown out, especially if you’ve done nothing to establish probable cause.
No matter what the officer tells you, you are not legally required to comply with any type of field sobriety or breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse, and doing so does not come with any type of penalty. It does not automatically make you guilty, either. In fact, it can actually save your case if you politely and calmly refuse to take such a test. Often, the officer will claim that you failed the sobriety test even if you didn’t, but there’s little you can do once you’ve taken the test. It’s your word against theirs, and it’s hard to prove you passed the test. Many of these sobriety tests are difficult for people to pass regardless of whether or not they have had a drink. If have a DUI consider reading 4 Tips If You Get Arrested for a DUI
The bottom line is that the only test you should feel compelled to take is a blood or urine blood alcohol content test. This test is only administered after arrest. If you refuse to take this test, the DMV may automatically suspend your license or impose other penalties, varying by state. Always politely decline to take any other sort of sobriety test, even if the officer tells you it’s mandatory.
Regardless of why the officer pulled you over, they cannot keep you for more than about 15 minutes without arresting you. If they attempt to keep you longer, politely ask if you are free to go. If they refuse to answer or tell you no, continue to ask off and on, always in a calm manner. The longer they keep you without a reason or without arresting you, the less likely it is to hold up in court. You cannot be detained indefinitely.
Now that you know your rights, make certain you utilize them when you’re pulled over. There’s no reason not to, especially if you have done nothing wrong. Always remember, though, that you must remain calm and polite with the officer, and never physically touch them. Otherwise, you could be arrested for assaulting an officer.
If you are arrested, contact H Law as soon as you can. You need a legal expert by your side to help you navigate the complex legal system. Contact us today to discuss your case at 213-370-0404.