Friday, October 11, 2013

What should I do if I get pulled over?

If you get pulled over, remain calm and remember your rights.

1. Don't admit to anything. If the officer asks "You know why I pulled you over, don't you?" answer "No." Aside from being a leading question, this question also affects your Fifth Amendment right (to not incriminate yourself). See related material here. 

2. Don't consent to a search. An officer can do a search without a warrant in some situations, based on what's called "probable cause." This means that if they think it's likely (more than a reasonable suspicion) that evidence of a crime can be found in your car, they can search. Or it could just be that the officer who wants to do the search is bored, a little suspicious, or wants to act like a jerk. Make it clear that you're not consenting to any search at all. Refusing to let the search happen doesn't mean you're guilty, it means you're aware of your rights, like the Fourth Amendment.

3. If you feel so inclined, you can videotape your traffic stop. It's not illegal to videotape police, although it may make the atmosphere feel more confrontational. Again, stay calm and remember your rights. You can also ask (politely, of course) for the officer's badge number and name, or patrol car number. The police are the only game in town, which means they keep doing their job, and we keep paying them, but we have very little say as "customers" of their service. But we can still report their behavior to their superiors, or the media, if need be.

4. An officer can ask for your driver's license, and proof of registration. Michigan has a statute on consenting to this as a condition of being allowed to drive.

5. If you're suspected of driving while intoxicated, an officer may ask you to do a roadside sobriety test. You are free to refuse the tests. What the officer is looking for is probable cause to arrest you. This means that the less you say or do that shows evidence of intoxication, the better off you are. So refuse (politely, of course) to perform the tests. More information here.
You won't get a lighter sentence because you were nice to the officer and did the tests. Doing the tests just gives more evidence, and leads to probable cause = you're arrested.

6. Roadside breathalyzer (PBT). Michigan has an implied consent law. This means that if you are arrested (not just pulled over) for driving while intoxicated, you are considered to have given your consent to have your blood alcohol content (BAC) test. However, the PBT at the car can be refused, and refusing will result in a fine and/or civil infraction. If you are arrested, however,  attempting to refuse the chemical test at the station can have serious consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment