Getting pulled over by the police can be a scary and daunting experience, even if you believe that you did not violate any laws. Unfortunately, routine traffic stops can be potentially life-threatening, especially for people of color. It can be very intimidating to feel powerless when you get pulled over by the police. But as a U.S. citizen, you should know that you have constitutional rights. Remaining calm and respectful and knowing your legal rights when you’re pulled over is vital when dealing with a traffic stop.
The Police Can’t Pull You Over Without Probable Cause
While you should stop if the police pull you over, they must have probable cause that you have violated a law or committed a crime. This can be as minor as failing to signal or having a busted taillight or as serious as the police seeing your vehicle swerving unnaturally, which led them to believe that you are driving while intoxicated (DWI). In any case, you have the right to know why a police officer is pulling you over.
You Have The Right to Remain Silent
The police have the right to ask for your driver’s license, proof of registration, and insurance documents, but you have the right to not answer further questions. When in doubt, politely say no. Answering questions, like whether you were texting while driving or drinking alcohol before driving, can incriminate you.
The Police Cannot Search Your Car Without a Warrant or Probable Cause
This means the police must have evidence to suspect that you have committed or are committing a crime. For instance, absent a warrant, an open alcohol container, stolen property in plain sight, or the smell of illegal drugs could be enough to justify a search of your vehicle. You should also know that you are legally obligated to step out of your vehicle if the police ask you to.
You Have The Right to Refuse BAC and Field Sobriety Tests
Police normally pull over suspected drunk drivers and may ask them to undergo field sobriety tests and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or breathalyzer tests. You can refuse to do so under certain circumstances. However, you must sign a statement stating that you fully understand the consequences of refusing the test. Likewise, you will face automatic license suspension due to the state’s implied consent law, and the prosecutor can use your refusal as evidence to prove your guilt.
You Have The Right to Record The Police
You don’t need permission from the police to record the traffic stop. However, it is crucial that you don’t come across as aggressive or threatening. Make sure to inform the police that you’re recording them, especially if you’re holding the recording device, so they know you’re not holding a firearm.
Talk to an Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Now
If you have been the victim of an unlawful traffic stop or inappropriate police actions when you were pulled over and have been arrested, reach out to the Texas criminal defense attorneys at Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC to protect your rights. Dial 210-222-9132 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.