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What Rights Do You Have When You Get Pulled Over?

Comments Off on What Rights Do You Have When You Get Pulled Over?

Any encounter with the police can be tense, and traffic stops are no exception. Whether the officer is stopping you on suspicion of a crime, committing a traffic violation, or without providing a reason at all, you retain certain rights when the police pull you over. It is important to understand these rights—and your responsibilities—in order to protect yourself during these police encounters. 

What Are Your Rights During a Traffic Stop?

You have several rights during a traffic stop. 

  • You have the right to remain silent. You do not need to answer the officer’s questions, especially if he or she is attempting to elicit a confession. You can simply state that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to ask why the police stopped your vehicle. You cannot be pulled over without probable cause, and the police officer must be able to tell you why he or she is executing the traffic stop. The officer may say that he or she pulled you over for suspicion, but he or she must say what he or she is suspecting you of doing.
  • You have the right to decline a search. If the officer asks for your consent to search your vehicle, belongings, or person, you do not have to agree. Instead, calmly say that you do not consent to a search. While the officer may be able to execute a warrantless search in some situations, stating your lack of consent could be helpful.
  • You have the right to record your encounter with the police. However, you should inform the officer that you are doing so. If you need to reach for your phone, inform the officer what you are doing. Making a sudden movement could be viewed as threatening.

What to Do if You Are Pulled Over

If you are pulled over by a police officer in Washington state, it is important to stay calm and take steps to protect yourself and your rights. When you notice the officer, pull over immediately, turn off your vehicle, and place your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. This signals to the officer that you are not a threat, which will help prevent the situation from escalating. 

The officer will ask to see your documents, such as your license and vehicle registration. Do not reach for these documents before he or she requests to see them. Remain calm, polite, and keep your responses to the officer brief. In particular, avoid making incriminating statements; if the officer asks if you know why he or she pulled you over, for example, do not confess to a crime or violation. You have the right to say that you do not know and have the officer provide an explanation.  

To further prevent escalation, do not make any sudden movements. Never touch the officer and follow his or her instructions. If you believe your rights have been violated, you have the right to make a complaint later on. 

Should You Contact an Attorney After a Traffic Stop?

If you are arrested during a traffic stop, it is very important to speak to a defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can protect your rights during your future case—and possibly help you get your charges reduced or dismissed. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your case and legal options.

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