Know your rights in a traffic stop

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2020 | Criminal Law

When an officer pulls you over in traffic, you have certain rights under federal law. You also have legal recourse if law enforcement violates your civil rights.

Review the actions you may take to exercise your legal rights in a traffic stop.

Remaining silent

Both you and your passengers have the right to remain silent. You can express your intention to exercise this right when the officer approaches your vehicle. You do not need to say anything else without a lawyer present. Passengers may ask the officer if they are free to go and leave the scene silently.

Protecting yourself

To reduce the risk of abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union recommends turning the light on inside the vehicle and placing your hands on the wheel. Show the officer your license and other documents upon request. Keep your hands in view at all times and avoid sudden motions.

If the officer places you under arrest, the ACLU notes that you can make a local phone call. You may call your lawyer in private. However, law enforcement can legally listen to other phone calls you make. Do not agree to or sign anything without an attorney present.

When you experience a rights violation, document the officer’s patrol car numbers and badge numbers. You and your attorney can file a complaint with the precinct’s internal affairs department.

If an officer injures you during a traffic stop, take photos of your injuries. If possible, collect statements or contact information from witnesses to the incident so that you can seek justice.