Know Your Rights For Law Enforcement Traffic Stop
What Are My Rights at Law Enforcement Traffic Stops?
Nobody likes to be subjected to a routine traffic stop. Not only is it inconvenient, but in most cases, you have done nothing wrong… but that doesn’t stop law enforcement officials from making you feel like a criminal.
There are three different types of traffic stops you may encounter as a motorist in the United States.
In each of these three, you would not be wise to turn around and attempt to flee the traffic stop. Almost always, you will be pursued and stopped before getting very far.
In this short article, we will take a brief look at your rights in each of these scenarios, and what you can do if you feel your rights were violated.
DUI Traffic Stops
DUI traffic stops sometimes referred to as sobriety checkpoints are fairly common.
While a DUI traffic stop is perfectly legal, and it serves a good theoretical purpose, some law enforcement officials use them for entirely different purposes.
For instance, in that brief period of time you are stopped, the officer should smell your breath or look for other obvious signs of drug or alcohol use.
But he or she may instead use it as an opportunity to peer into your vehicle, check tags and license, or to examine whether or not your seatbelt is securely fastened.
If you are subjected to a DUI traffic stop, your constitutional rights still apply. You do not have to answer any questions posed to you, although it may be wise to do so if you have done nothing wrong.
You most certainly should never admit to breaking the law, and it is your right to refuse to incriminate yourself through any sort of admission.
And most importantly, officers do not have the right to search your vehicle without probable cause or permission. An example of valid probable cause would be a drug-sniffing dog indicating that there is contraband in your vehicle.
Drug Checkpoint Traffic Stops
Although the Supreme Court ruled that random drug checkpoints are unconstitutional, they are sometimes set up as a trap.
Some law enforcement officials will set up a sign indicating that a drug checkpoint is ahead. And although the checkpoint does not exist, officers are in position to observe your approaching vehicle.
If you attempt to turn around, or to discard any substances from the vehicle, you could be pulled over at the side of the road under suspicion.
If you are approaching an alleged drug checkpoint, your best resource is to continue driving. In all likelihood, there is no drug checkpoint ahead – and even if there were, it would be an unconstitutional violation of your legal rights.
US Border Checkpoints
Approaching the United States border in your vehicle – to cross back into the United States from Canada or Mexico is much different than typical traffic stops.
The law enforcement officials responsible for keeping our borders secure work for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These agents have the legal right to search you, your vehicle and your belongings without probable cause or a warrant.
In other words, you are consenting to a search by attempting to cross the border.
If an agent has probable cause to believe you may be concealing contraband, he or she may perform an invasive physical search – including x-rays or a cavity search.
If you are under suspicion for another reason, agents do not have the right to conduct any sort of forensic search on your electronic devices – including phones, laptops, and cameras. They may, however, ask you to turn on your laptop to take a quick look – you must legally comply with this request.
In some cases, you may also encounter a security traffic stop set up by the Department of Homeland Security after you have crossed the border – within 100 miles. Unlike the agents at the border, you do not have to answer any questions at these checkpoints, nor do you have to consent to a search.
Need Help? Call Attorney Big Al!
Were your rights violated at a routine traffic stop?
Were you charged with DUI, or another serious offense?
Attorney Big Al can help.
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