Know Your Rights in a Traffic Stop
There’s nothing quite as unsettling as seeing those blue and red lights flashing in your rearview mirror. At first you assume the patrol car is chasing someone else, but ultimately realize that no, you are the target. As apprehension mounts, you ease to the shoulder and mentally prepare for what will hopefully be a minor inconvenience and nothing more. This you should know: you do have rights. Now, more than ever, it is important to understand and exercise them.
Do NOT Jeopardize your Safety
There have been countless cases of seemingly minor traffic infractions resulting in outrageous outcomes. Particularly for those of color, police interactions can be frightening and intimidating. So be smart, and make decisions that amplify your willingness to cooperate and minimize any chance of an officer misinterpreting your behavior as somehow dangerous:
- Turn off the ignition to show you have no intention of trying to speed away;
- Turn on interior lighting to increase visibility;
- Reduce radio volume to limit distractions;
- Place hands on the wheel for clear visibility;
- Instruct passengers to display their hands clearly;
- Use a calm, respectful tone while responding to the officer’s request for I.D., vehicle registration, and proof of insurance;
- Do not resist arrest if it comes to that.
Do Exercise your Rights
Outside of providing the basics listed above, you and any passengers with you have the right to remain silent, whether or not you are being arrested. The officer may question you about where you’ve been or where you’re going, and you need simply reply that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Certainly, do not respond to questions related to citizenship! If a request is made to search your vehicle, politely decline. Without probable cause there is no reason to search you or your vehicle, although police are allowed to conduct a pat down to determine whether or not you’re carrying a weapon.
If a Traffic Stop Results in an Arrest
In the event you are arrested, the officer is required to read you your rights. Key among those rights is the right to an attorney, which you should immediately request. Outside of this, say nothing. Sign nothing. Do not argue, explain, or defend yourself. If the officer continues to ask you questions, respond by stating that you are exercising your right to remain silent and that you will continue to do so until you have an attorney by your side.
The Phone Call
You are entitled to a single phone call. If the call is to your attorney, it is supposed to be confidential. All other phone conversations may be—and likely are– monitored by the police. Do not say anything that you wouldn’t want them to hear or that might be used against you. Cover the essentials and wait for your attorney to arrive.
Your Legal Defense
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s become much more than a speeding ticket or a broken taillight. At the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, our experienced Miami criminal attorneys provide a skilled and thorough defense. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation.