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Police Stops: Your Legal Rights

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Police stops can be tense situations that result in serious legal repercussions when handled poorly. In order to get through these encounters safely, it is important to know what rights you have, and how to exercise them properly.

What to Do if You’re Pulled Over

  • Find a safe place to stop:
    • The last thing that you want to do is put yourself in more danger—legal or otherwise—by pulling over on an unsafe section of the road. Continue forward until you find an area removed from nearby traffic. While parked, stay in your vehicle and make sure your hands are clearly visible.
  • Show proper documentation when asked:
    • Florida state law requires that vehicle owners provide driver’s licenses and registration cards to patrol officers when requested to do so. Always make sure that you have these documents in your vehicle.
  • Treat the officer with respect and listen carefully:
    • Oftentimes police traffic stops will only result in a fine—sometimes not even that. In order to avoid escalating the situation, don’t provoke the officer and remain calm. You should also listen carefully, so you can find out why you’re being pulled over and what—if anything—you’re being accused of.

Know Your Rights

  • The right to remain silent:
    • Under no circumstances are you required to answer any questions or say anything that could potentially incriminate you. If possible, clearly state to the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
  • The right to record the encounter:
    • You can legally record the officer as long as you don’t interfere with any legal searches in the process. If asked, inform the officer that you are exercising your right.
  • The right to a lawyer:
    • In the event that you are arrested, request a lawyer as soon as possible. If you are unable to pay for a lawyer, one will be provided to you. Avoid answering questions until you can speak to your lawyer. You will also be given the opportunity to make a local phone call; if you don’t want a lawyer provided by the state, use it to contact a private law practice.

Common Questions

  • Does an officer need permission to search my vehicle?
    • Yes. Unless there is a reason to believe you’re involved in some kind of criminal activity or the officer has a search warrant, you do not need to consent to a search of your vehicle.
  • Do I have to consent to drug or alcohol testing?
  • What if I’m a passenger?
    • The rights of passengers are essentially the same as the driver. If you are a passenger during a police traffic stop, remember that you can remain silent, and don’t have to consent to searches. Both the driver and passenger can also ask whether they can exit the vehicle (although the officer does not have to give permission).

If you need a trustworthy criminal defense lawyer, contact Khonsari Law Group online or call (727) 269-5300.

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