What are police officers permitted to do during a traffic stop?

May 2, 16 by Jorian Goes

What are police officers permitted to do during a traffic stop?

It can be scary to get pulled over, even if you know you were speeding. One of the things many people worry about is balancing following instructions given by police officers with protecting individual rights. And what do you do to beat a traffic ticket in California if an officer violated your rights? There are certain things police officers are permitted to do and that you are legally obligated to comply with. However, there are other things that police officers may ask, or even order, that you are not legally obligated to do. Knowing what a cop can and cannot do during a traffic stop can help you protect your individual rights and maybe even beat a traffic ticket in California.

What are cops permitted to do during a traffic stop?

  • Ask to see identification, registration, and insurance. When you are stopped, a police officer will likely ask for your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and the vehicle registration. This is routine, and you are obligated to provide this information.
  • Ask you, and your passengers, to step out of the vehicle. A police officer may ask you to step out to speak with you, for your safety, or as part of another legal action, such as searching your vehicle.
  • Have a police dog sniff the vehicle. If the police dog is present at the time of the stop and the use of the dog does not extend the stop, a police officer may use a police K9 to sniff your vehicle.
  • Take action based on suspicions that develop during the stop. Once the police officer has stopped you, he or she may develop suspicions or probable cause based on what has occurred during the stop. This may provide the officer with justification to take further action during the stop.
  • Search your vehicle with probable cause. If the officer has probable cause, he or she may search your vehicle or you. However, without probable cause, the police officer must have your consent for a search.

How can I protect my rights during a traffic stop?

The first way you can protect your individual rights during a traffic stop is to know what they are. For example, if an officer tells you that you have to put out your cigarette, you do not have to comply. But you need to know that in order to protect that right. Along the same lines, make sure you know what you are obligated to comply with during a stop.

You should also remain calm and polite, and be clear about your rights. For example, instead of asking, “Can I go?” ask the police officer, “Am I being detained?” If you are not being detained, you are free to leave at any time. If you are being detained, you have the right to ask for an attorney. A traffic stop may be scary, but as long as you know your rights and obligations, you don’t have to worry about what might happen, and if your rights are violated, you may have recourse to beat a traffic ticket in California.