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Your Rights at a Traffic Stop

Dec. 23, 2021

Police car behind truck on roadWhen you see flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror it can cause tremendous anxiety, even if you know you weren’t violating the law. It is crucial to know what you are required and not required to do if law enforcement pulls you over. Understanding your rights and responsibilities is essential to staying calm in this situation.

Before opening his private practice nearly 25 years ago, Michael J Englert, Attorney at Law, served as a prosecuting attorney and judge. Since then, he has helped hundreds of clients in Independence, Blue Springs, and Lee’s Summit, Missouri, understand their legal rights and protections.

What to Do When You’re Pulled Over

Whenever you see the flashing lights of law enforcement in your rearview mirror, you should slow down, engage your turn signal, and stop as far to the right on the roadway as possible. Sit and wait until the law enforcement vehicle either passes you and moves on or stops behind your vehicle.

When the officer approaches your vehicle, roll down your window and wait for the officer to tell you why you have been stopped. If you are alone in the vehicle and not in a place where other people can observe what is happening, roll your window down only far enough to ask the officer to follow you to a public place, such as a business parking lot. If the reason for the stop is suspected impaired driving or if the officer has reason to believe you will attempt to flee, they may deny this request.

The officer will likely ask to see your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance and you should comply with that request. The officer will then either ask you to wait while they return to the patrol car or ask you to get out of your vehicle and escort you to the patrol vehicle. The officer may want you to sit in their vehicle for safety reasons.

Your Rights When You Are Stopped

You have three key rights during a traffic stop:

  1. Freedom from unreasonable search gives you the right to refuse any search of your vehicle, person, mobile phone, or other electronic devices unless the officer provides probable cause for doing so. The officer can pat you down only if they advise you that they have cause to believe you are carrying a weapon.

  2. You have the right — of which you should take advantage — to remain silent. This right protects you from incriminating yourself. You need to respond to basic questions such as what is your name, but when asked other questions, politely advise the officer that you decline to answer them. If the officer wants to question you, you must be advised of your Miranda rights.

  3. You have the right to an attorney and to have your legal counsel present when being questioned.

What Rights Does the Officer Have?

Law enforcement officers also have rights designed to protect them and keep the public safe from potential harm. Understand that stopping someone and approaching a vehicle can also cause anxiety for the officer. To help keep yourself and the officer safe, keep your hands on the steering wheel or where the officer can see them at all times. If you need to remove requested documents from your purse, pocket, console, glove compartment, or sun visor, advise the officer of your intention before doing so.

The officer has the right to search your vehicle or your person if they have probable cause to do so. They also have the right to ask you to exit your vehicle, handcuff you, place you in the patrol vehicle, and take you to a law enforcement facility — as long as they have probable cause to do so.

Call Michael J Englert, Attorney at Law for Help

Most criminal defense attorneys know and understand the rights and protections to which you are entitled when stopped by law enforcement. Unlike most criminal defense attorneys, attorney Michael Englert has experience as a prosecuting attorney and as a judge. He helps you understand your rights from multiple perspectives and can help provide the legal guidance you need to make smart choices when confronted by law enforcement.

If you have questions about your legal rights when stopped or if you have been stopped and need legal representation in Independence, Blue Springs, and Lee’s Summit, Missouri, call Michael J Englert, Attorney at Law now.