Know Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

It’s obvious that your chances of getting pulled over should be lower if you’re following the law. Driving the speed limit, wearing your seatbelt, and obeying road signs are easy ways to avoid getting a ticket. However, there are still times when you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the law. That’s when knowing your rights can help you stay out of trouble. Here are a few tips to handling these situations safely and without conflict.

Scenario: A police officer asks if he can search your car.

What might happen next: A police officer needs probable cause to search your vehicle. Meaning, he or she must have some kind of fact or evidence linking you to criminal activity – they cannot act on a hunch. Probable cause could mean the police officer smelled or saw contraband in your car, but does not include something like a broken tail-light or expired registration. You don’t have to consent to searches, either. If a police officer asks if you mind if he or she “has a look inside your vehicle,” you can politely and verbally (not physically) refuse.

Scenario: You have come across a checkpoint.

What might happen next: You are required to stop at checkpoints, and there’s not much you can do about it. Police departments can plan checkpoints ahead of time with a routine, like stopping every third car or every other car. The most common roadblock you might encounter is a sobriety checkpoint. While officers are allowed to stop you briefly, they still must have probable cause to search the car. The best thing you can do is abstain from drinking and driving altogether. Ride sharing companies make that very easy for a small fee.

Scenario: A police officer notices illegal contraband in your car.

What might happen next: “Plain view” gives a police officer the legal right to search your car. For example, if you are pulled over and an officer notices a baggie with drugs on your passenger seat, then the drugs are considered to be in plain view and he or she may search your car. In addition, if a police officer is searching your car for one reason and comes across a separate incriminating item, such as an illegally obtained weapon, then plain view applies and you can still be charged.

Scenario: You’ve been pulled over and there’s a warrant out for your arrest.

What might happen next: An arrest warrant is granted by a judge in a court of law allowing a law enforcement official to the right to arrest a person of interested regarding a crime. Police officers have equipment in their vehicle that will allow them to pull your records up, and see any warrants you might have. If you’re out of the state your warrant has been issued in, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. If you’re arrested, the only court that has jurisdiction over the matter is the court where the crime occurred. The process of a person being returned to a state where his or her crime occurred is called extradition – but that depends on the severity of the crime.

Scenario: You’re recording a scene and a police officer asks you to stop.

What might happen next: If you’re standing across the street videotaping in a public place, then you are legally allowed to record whatever scene is unfolding in front of you. However, you don’t have the right to interfere or obstruct justice. Courts will typically recognize that a person’s right to film an on-duty police officer is protected under the First Amendment. However, a hostile police officer who’s been undermined by your knowledge of the law might be more inclined to arrest you for a small misdemeanor like disorderly conduct. Check your local laws before assuming the legality of any situation.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, Good2Go Auto Insurance can help to protect your vehicle with minimum limits auto insurance, while your on the road. To get started, visit to get your free auto insurance quote in under a minute.

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