Depending on your behavior, a seemingly routine traffic stop can turn into a whole host of criminal charges. Since police generally have no legal grounds to stop a person aside from during traffic stops, these routine stops are often the only way to ask people questions or make evaluations about their fitness for certain activities.
When you get behind the wheel in Missouri, you’re subject to all state traffic laws and statutes, and many criminal charges have their start in a routine traffic stop. While the general rule is to always comply when you’re stopped by police, here are some other helpful tips from your local law firm to help you negotiate this often-stressful situation.
The most important thing to remember when stopped by the police is to be polite. Always be courteous and respectful regardless of the police officer’s demeanor, and absolutely do not give an officer any reason to feel threatened. Look the officer in the eyes and always remain calm when speaking.
While you should answer questions politely, you should always practice caution in saying anything to the officer. Only answer direct questions, but remember that you have Fifth Amendment rights—you have no obligation to inform an officer about specifics of where you were going or what you were doing.
One of the most common questions an officer will ask at the beginning of a stop is whether you know why you’ve been pulled over. Saying “yes” or otherwise admitting guilt can result in a ticket at best, and arrest at worst. If you are arrested, Fifth Amendment concerns are usually the first issues your law firm will examine surrounding the circumstances of your case.
Be mindful of your movements
Always keep in mind that sudden movements are viewed as a threat by police officers. During every traffic stop, be mindful of how you move and where your hands are placed. To start, keep both hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. Only fetch documents from your glove compartment when instructed to do so. Keep your hands in full view of the officer to ensure the officer never feels the need to escalate the situation.
Understand your right to refuse searches
Under the United States Constitution, you have the right to refuse unreasonable searches. To perform a search and seizure, an officer must have a warrant, probable cause or your own permission to search your vehicle and/or your person. While there can be many instances that support searches due to probable cause, including erratic driving, open containers, seeing something thrown from the vehicle or even smells coming from the vehicle, there are instances in which you can refuse unreasonable searches. Never physically resist a search, but understand your rights.
If you need to retain an attorney from a local law firm for any criminal charges stemming from a traffic stop, it’s important to have years of experience on your side. Contact Maynard & Joyce, LLC to learn more about criminal law and procedure and to fully understand your rights in a traffic stop or other police-involved situation.