We’ve all heard some horrifying accounts of people being subjected to flagrant violence and discrimination after getting pulled over by cops on the road.
Just consider the case of a female African-American college student named Charneisha Corley who was forcibly stripped and body-searched in a Texaco parking lot in 2015.
Such incidents highlight the importance of learning as much you can about your rights should you ever get pulled over by cops in the future.
In this article, we go over some of the essential things that people need to know about their rights on the road. Such knowledge of pertinent laws will help discourage unlawful conduct on the part of police officers.
The right to know the reason why you were pulled over
According to criminal defense lawyer Henry Nguyen of Houston Texas, one of the first things that people need to know about their rights on the road is that cops must have a probable cause for pulling you over.
They don’t randomly stop vehicles to search for drugs and other contraband. In most cases, the probable cause is almost always minor such as a broken tail light or swerving between lanes with no signals. Hence it is crucial to keep a level head and calmly ask the officer what’s the reason for the traffic stop (if it wasn’t given already).
The right to refuse searches
In some cases, a police officer may ask permission to search your vehicle which you can legally refuse by stating that you do not consent to the search.
Unless they have a warrant, no police officer can forcibly search your vehicle. Most people are hesitant to assert refusal to a search fearing that it might be held as evidence of guilt, which is not the case at all.
A police officer can search a vehicle without a warrant only under the following circumstances:
- Driver/owner consented to the search.
- Following an arrest; cops can search the vehicles of suspects.
- The officer sees evidence of contraband and unlawful conduct in plain sight; empty bottles of liquor on the seat, a bag of marijuana on the dashboard and the like.
The right to stay inside your vehicle during a traffic stop
In many cases, a police officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle following a traffic stop. It’s perfectly legal to refuse to do so and assert on staying inside your car.
That said, doing so may create tension with the officer who might insist on getting you out of the vehicle as a safety precaution.
In this case, it would be best to comply but only after asking the officer to clarify whether they have an intention to hold you or if you’re free to go. In most cases, doing so will make police officers more cautious about violating your rights.
You can refuse a breathalyzer test but not without consequences
In most states, including Texas, obtaining a driver’s license carries a law requiring drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if asked during a traffic stop. While you can decline such a test, doing so can get your license suspended for up to 6 months.
So there you have it — an overview on your rights should you ever get pulled over for a traffic stop. Knowing your rights and whether or not the cops are infringing on them can prove useful in court and make you a less likely victim of any traffic stop violations.