Your rights during a police stop
If you are like many drivers, you may feel like there is never a Colorado police officer around when someone cuts you off in traffic or runs you off the road. However, when you are driving along, minding your own business, suddenly a cop is pulling you over.
Do you know what to do to ensure your safety, protect your rights and reduce the chances that a simple traffic ticket will escalate to a full-out arrest? You can take certain steps to make a traffic stop as painless as possible and to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with law enforcement.
When you see the lights of a police car behind you, you need to pull over to the right or into a parking lot as soon as it is safe to do so. Remain calm and follow these steps:
- Turn off the ignition to assure the officer you are not going to drive away.
- Roll down your window enough to pass your ID to the officer, but not far enough that the officer can fit his or her head inside to try to look around or smell for alcohol.
- Get your ID and registration out and wait patiently inside the car until the officer has finished notifying the police station that he or she is making a traffic stop.
- Keep your hands in plain sight so the officer does not suspect you are hiding something or reaching for a weapon.
- Speak politely and respectfully to the officer.
You may know perfectly well why the officer pulled you over. Maybe the second you went through the intersection you knew you ran the red light, or you meant to fix your taillight a week ago. However, do not incriminate yourself. Ask the officer to tell you the reason for the stop. If the officer writes you a ticket, sign it and do not argue. You can dispute it in court.
It is important to know your rights during a traffic stop. Police often take advantage of drivers who are not aware of the legal boundaries of law enforcement. You can politely insist on these rights:
- You do not have to submit to a search of your vehicle without a warrant, but you must exit the vehicle if the officer requests it.
- You do not have to submit to field sobriety tests or roadside breath tests.
- You do not have to answer any questions about where you have been, what you have been doing or whether you are in the country legally.
It is important not to become defensive or in any way challenge the officer. However, you should be observant for any police actions that violate your rights. If you find yourself facing charges beyond a simple traffic ticket, seeking the advice of an attorney is a wise next step.