After the Philando Castile shooting in Minnesota, people have been a little skittish about what happens when they get pulled over.
Statistically, a traffic stop is the most dangerous thing a police officer can do. So in some, if not all cases, the officer may be just as nervous as you are.
Before we get into your rights, the most important thing to know is that you are working with a possibly nervous human being. Thus, your first priority is to ease the situation.
According to police officers, there is a such thing as Traffic Stop 101. The basic steps are: pull over promptly and safely, roll down all windows, turn on interior lights, and keep your hands on the steering wheel in the 10-2 position until you receive instructions. When asked to retrieve something, verbally state where it is and ask for permission to retrieve it.
At this point, the situation can go in several directions, especially depending if you were drinking or not (even just a beverage). Here are some important things to remember when you’re pulled over at a traffic stop:
You have the right not to incriminate yourself
This means you want to keep your answers short. Those pulled over have a habit of over-talking. Cops are trained to ask questions that elicit incriminating information, starting with the classic, “Do you know why you got pulled over?” (always answer ‘no’ here). Your words, in your attempt to be polite, can be used against you. When in doubt, decline to answer.
You don’t have to consent to a search
Consenting, unless the cop has a warrant, is one of the few reasons that grant permission to search. There are other reasons, though. Have you noticed the gap between your stopping and the officer approaching, when your car is blanketed with their floodlight? One thing he’s looking for is ‘furtive movement’, like you hiding something under the seat. So, sudden movements when you’re pulled over constitute ‘probable cause’, and give an officer permission to search your car. Others include ‘plain view’ (illegal objects are easily seen), and ‘exigent circumstances’, if you are suspected of destroying evidence (more common in house searches).
You can refuse a breathalyzer or blood test
This is in your rights; however, we do not recommend it. When most states issue driver’s licenses, including Oregon and Washington, they have ‘implied consent’ laws, meaning you agree to take a breathalyzer if you get pulled over. You have the right to refuse, but it could result in your license being suspended.
You can record the traffic stop
It’s included in the First Amendment, and the footage could be handy if you felt your rights were violated. It’s also permissible to get the officer’s name and badge information. Before recording, you should let him know what you’re doing and not make sudden movements. If the officer takes your phone, or arrests you for recording, then it’s time to call an attorney.
Hopefully these tips and information will be helpful if you get pulled over. If you feel your rights have been violated, or certain steps were not performed within the law, you should consult an attorney. Contact us today at Philbrook Law Office. We are here to guide you through your rights and give you the information you need to go forward!
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.