With recent news over the suspicious death of Sandra Bland and increasing occurrences of cops showing unnecessary aggression toward the public and vice versa, many are questioning what a citizen’s rights truly are when stopped by police? Here are some common questions about police traffic stops and their answers.
Can police pull you over at random?
No. Police can only pull you over if they have probable cause such as speeding, erratic driving, or a broken tail light. A cop can’t randomly stop your car and conduct a search. When a cop does signal you to pull over, you have to abide when it is safe to do so. No matter the situation, if a cop signals you to pull over, pull over. If not, you could face additional charges for defying the officer’s signal.
Similarly, you must produce your identification when asked. If you fail to do so, you can receive an additional charge for a separate violation.
If the cop asks you to step out of the car, do you have to?
According to Professor George C. Thomas of Rutgers University School of Law – Newark, a police officer in New Jersey can demand you and your passengers to get out of the car because of safety precautions: It is easier to face an armed person standing than in a car. On the other hand, New York traffic attorney Martin Kron said it is perfectly legal to stay in your car, but it looks bad to the officer
You do not, however, have to do anything else if you provide your identification and get out of the car unless you were being detained. Police can pat you down if they think you are armed and dangerous, but you do not need to answer their questions or let them search your car unless… see the following Q&A.
When can a cop search your car?
An officer can only search your car if you give consent, if he or she sees cause for suspicion in plain view (such as a bag of marijuana on the dashboard), if you are arrested with probable cause, if the officer has probable cause to suspect a crime (like blood stains on your seat and a knife on the passenger floor), if they believe evidence is about to be destroyed, or if they have a warrant.
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