Let’s talk about getting pulled over by the police. Many of us know that you can get pulled over for speeding, driving recklessly, or failing to stop at a stop sign. These are typically called moving violations. Did you know you can also be pulled over for other things such as having a broken tail light or failure to display proper stickers on your license plate?
Probable Cause For Traffic Stop
Firstly, let’s discuss what police officers need in order to pull you over. What exactly gives the officer the right to pull you over? An officer needs what is called reasonable suspicion in order to pull over your vehicle on a roadway. What does this mean exactly? Probable cause is defined as “a particularized and objective basis, supported by specific and articulable facts, for suspecting a person of criminal activity.” This means that the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or have broken the vehicle code. Once an officer has reasonable suspicion, he can flip on those red and blue lights and pull you over.
Now we know what reasonable suspicion means and that an officer needs to meet this standard before pulling you over, let’s look at what exactly will give an officer reasonable suspicion to pull you over? Something like speeding, reckless driving, failing to stop at a stop sign, failing to use your turn signal, etc. will all give rise to reasonable suspicion. In addition to these moving violations, having a broken tail like, failure to display proper license plates or registration stickers, or having a vehicle that is unsafe to be on the roadway will also supply an officer with reasonable suspicion
While you may not feel like having a broken tail light should mean you can get pulled over, it surely does
You can be pulled over an issued what’s commonly referred to as a “fix it ticket” to have the issue fixed before continuing to drive your vehicle on the roadways. A “fix it ticket” usually requires that you fix the issue and then have an officer, not just the officer that pulled you over, sign off attesting that you truly did fix the issue.
What To Do When Pulled Over
Now let’s talk about what to do when you get pulled over. Do not pull over until it is safe to do so. Slow down and make sure it is safe to pull all the way to the right shoulder. If you are unable to safely pull over, you may indicate to the officer that you acknowledge they are there with a simple hand waive and drive the speed limit until it is safe to pull over. Once you are pulled over and safely at a stop, remain in your vehicle unless the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle. Although you have a right to stay in the vehicle, officers may ask that you exit the vehicle for safety reasons. Make sure to pull out your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance when the officer asks for those documents.
An important thing to note is that just because an officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over, does not mean they have the right to search your vehicle. Officers can only search your vehicle in on of the following situations:
1) You consent to the search of your vehicle.
2) Illegal or contraband items are in “plain view” meaning that they can be plainly seen by the officer without him having to move or manipulate the item and it is apparent that the item is illegal or contraband.
3) If you are arrested, your vehicle can be searched incident to lawful arrest.
4) If the officer has probable cause to suspect that you have committed a crime.
5) If police there are exigent circumstances, he/she can search your vehicle to avoid the destruction of evidence.
6) If the officer has a warrant to search your vehicle.
Another important note is that when you get pulled over, you have the right to remain silent. You are not required to answer any questions that the officer asks that may or may not incriminate you. Officers may ask questions, however if you do not feel comfortable answering the questions, you may simply say “I wish to invoke my right to silence under the Fifth Amendment” and then stay silent.
Stand Up For Your Rights
It is important for you to know when and why you can get pulled over, in addition to knowing your rights when you do get pulled over. Everyone should be aware of their rights to ensure that you are protected. A simple mistake, such as consenting to the search of your vehicle, could cost you time, money, and hassle that could otherwise be avoided by refusing a search. Remember, be polite to the officers when you get pulled over but be firm with your rights and do not let an officer infringe upon those rights.