What to do When You Are Stopped by the PoliceWritten on July 8, 2014
If you have an encounter with the police, whether during a traffic stop or while on foot, you have rights that protect you against being questioned, searched or detained. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. It’s important to know your rights when dealing with a law enforcement officer. It’s also important to keep in mind what you should and shouldn’t do when talking to the police.
If you are driving a car and the blue lights start flashing behind you, you are required to stop when it is safe to do so. You must show your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration if those documents are requested. What if the officer asks to search your vehicle after speaking with you? You are not required to allow a police officer to search your vehicle or answer any questions. However, if the officer believes there is probable cause to search your vehicle for anything illegal or evidence of a crime, they will do so without your consent. The burden will fall on that officer to articulate exactly what that probable cause consisted of if you are arrested as a result of the search.
Not all encounters with the police occur during a traffic stop. An officer may approach you while you are on foot. If that is the case, you are under no obligation to talk to the police. However, if asked for your name, address and date of birth, you should provide that information. You are within your rights to ask the officer if you are under arrest. If you aren’t, you are free to leave.
Although you are protected against unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer does have the authority to search you for weapons if he/she reasonably believes you have been involved in a crime and may have a weapon. In this case, the officer doesn’t need probable cause to search you. The only standard required to conduct the search is a reasonable suspicion. This is called a “Terry Stop” and is based on the Supreme Court Case “Terry vs. Ohio.” The search should consist only of a basic “pat down” of the outer clothing.
You may not always agree with what the police do. If you or your vehicle are searched, and you feel the search is illegal, do not try to argue or interfere with the officer. Whatever you do, never try to physically stop the police from doing something. That won’t end well for you. If you attempt to prevent the officer from conducting a search or refuse to comply with instructions, you could be charged with the Willful Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer, which is a misdemeanor. Even if the search is ultimately deemed to be illegal in court, you may still be prosecuted for the charge.
If you feel your rights have been violated by the police, or are facing charges due to a search of your vehicle, home or person, contact The Silverbach Group right away. We are on your side and here to help. You can reach us at 770-635-0334