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Traffic Stops | Criminal Defense

What happens if stopped by the police | Traffic Stops - Terry Stop

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Do Police Officers have specific reasons to pull people Over while driving?

This occurs usually when someone is behaving in a criminal manner or if a person is not following the rules of the road. This includes driving offenses such as speeding or failing to follow traffic laws. Someone can also be taken into custody if the police have a warrant for an arrest or if the police suspect you have committed a crime.


What situations can Police Officers interview someone other than when they are in custody?

Whenever something looks out of the ordinary the police can certainly detain someone to inquire about the situation. This is referred to as a Terry Stop and is perfectly legal.


A stop that is justified is exhibiting any of the following:

  • A traffic violation

  • A person does not to fit the time or place.

  • Matches the description of a criminal suspect police are already searching for.

  • Abnormal behavior, emotional, angry, fearful, or intoxicated.

  • Loitering

  • Running away or engaging in surreptitious movements.

  • You have committed a crime.

  • You are in a crime scene area.

  • If you are in a high-crime area, this is not sufficient unless you are loitering, Running away or engaging in surreptitious movements or any of the above combinations.


Stop and frisk also referred to as a Pat Down can be justified by the following conditions:

  • Concerns for safety of a Police Officer or others.

  • Suspicion a person is armed and dangerous.

  • Suspicion a person is about to commit where a weapon is used.

  • Officer is alone and backup has not arrived.

  • Number of suspects and physical size.

  • Behavior, emotional state, or look of suspects.

  • A person gave evasive answers during the initial stop.

  • Time of day and/or geographical surroundings are not sufficient by themselves to justify frisk.


Examples of probable cause to a search of your vehicle.

  • The smell or sight of contraband in plain view on you or inside your vehicle.

  • A weapon or criminal activity in in plain view inside your vehicle.

  • Admission of guilt for a specific crime or the office.

  • A warrant for your arrest, you fit the description of suspect or someone witnessed you do a crime.

  • The smell of alcohol

  • Reckless Driving

  • Evading Police

  • If you give consent, you agree and give permission to a search.


Are Police officers are looking for probable cause to justify a warrantless search?

  • Avoid trick questions that lead to incrimination of yourself.

  • During a traffic stop if a Police officer asks, why did I pull you over? Do Not Answer. This is a common trick question to get you to incriminate yourself by willingly confessing your guilt to the offense at hand or other offenses. These types of question are designed to trick you so it is good practice to not answer questions.

  • Reply to the officer by asking, what is the reason you pulled me over? If the officer does not have a reason for pulling you over. You can ask am I being detained or am I free to go. After asking this question the officer should tell you the reason why you were pulled over.

Not Considered Probable Cause

  • Minor traffic violations.

  • Speeding, unless it is excessive and considered reckless driving

  • A broken tail-light.

  • Expired registration.

  • A police officers feelings or gut instinct alone without direct evidence of criminal activity or illegal items in plain view, is not enough for the police to legally search your vehicle.


Traffic Stops - Terry Stop

If you are pulled over by the Police:

  • Turn off your Vehicle.

  • Have your driver’s license, insurance card and registration ready in hand.

  • Always keep your hands in full view preferably both hands on the steering wheel.

  • It is very important be courteous, show respect and do not mouth off.

  • Do not make any unnecessary movements, if it is dark, you should turn on the interior car light.

  • Never get out of your vehicle unless you are instructed to do so.

  • Never touch a police officer because this can be considered a show of aggression and or an attack.

  • Never leave the scene until the officer grants you permission.


Pat Down | Stop and Frisk

Not all traffic Stops result in being asked to step out of your vehicle but If a Police Officer asks you to step out of your vehicle you must comply. It is important to know A Pat Down is legal even if you are a pedestrian. You must obey.

A Pat Down is a search for concealed weapons, or anything that can pose harm to the officer or others.

  • It is important to comply, be courteous and follow the Police Officers instruction.

  • Do not make any unnecessary movements or gestures, always keep your hands where they can be seen.

  • If this is a traffic stop, when leaving your car do not leave your car easily accessible, lock your car, it is likely the officer will use this as an opportunity to search your vehicle.

If the officer decides to perform a Pat Down, always remember to tell the officer your name and address and say, RESPECTFULLY I do not consent to searches.

  • During a Pat Down it is very important to comply and remain calm do not resist.

  • If the contents in your pockets are squeezed or manipulated by the police and they are trying to figure out what it is, this is no longer a weapons search. The police must have evidence and probable cause that you have committed a crime or about to commit a crime. However your pockets will most likely be emptied anyways. This is why it is important to remember to say the phrase I do not consent to searches.

  • If you are asked to empty your pockets, refusing is NOT considered probable cause. Remember to say your name, address and tell the Police officer I do not consent to searches.


Exercise your Constitutional Rights.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand their Constitutional Rights, and do not understand the importance during a Pat Down or before a search to respectfully say, I do not consent to searches.

Common mistakes people make by unknowingly or willingly giving consent to a warrantless search.

Always remember during a Pat Down tell the officer I do not consent to searches. If nothing is suspected to be a weapon and the officer removes Items from your pockets without probable cause, the findings in most cases are not admissible evidence.

  • Never resist a Pat Down, being handcuffed or arrested, this is considered probable cause.

  • Not saying anything at all, can be considered giving consent to search.

  • Not saying the phrase “I do Not Consent to searches” during a Pat Down

  • Willingly emptying your pockets if asked, say, I do Not Consent to searches.

  • Remember anything you say or do will be used against you.

  • Remember anything found illegal in your pockets will be used against you.

  • Remember you are most likely being recorded.

  • Remember, if the police have to ask to search your vehicle, the police most likely do not have probable cause to search. You gain nothing by allowing a search.

During a Pat Down it is likely your pockets will be emptied anyways, even If the officer has no probable cause to suspect a weapon. If drugs are found in your pockets, you will most likely be arrested anyways.

  • If you are arrested do not speak and never answer questions.

  • You will be taken to the police station and processed.

  • Ask for your lawyer right away, and do not answer any questions until your lawyer is present.


Do I have to let officers search my vehicle during a traffic stop?

No, not without probable cause. Remember a Pat Down if Legal. A full search is when Police go through your pockets, look through your car and personal belongings. Even if you are lawfully detained this does not automatically give the police the right to search without probable cause. Your detainment must be legally justified and Police must have specific facts that make them believe you have a weapon or something that could impose harm against them.


Refusing a search is NOT considered probable cause.

Remember Police Officers are trained to get you to waive your rights, either with trick questions or strategies, including threatening to call the K9 Unit. Despite the officer’s claims to convince you to waive your right to search, refusing a search is NOT considered probable cause, unless they have probable Cause.

  • Remember, if the police have to ask to search your vehicle, the police most likely do not have probable cause to search. You gain nothing by allowing a search. If you are continued to be asked questions without probable cause, you can simply answer each questions with, Am I being detained or am I free to go?

  • If the officer says you’re being detained, ask, what the crime I have committed? If he doesn’t have an answer for you, continue answering each question with Am I being detained or am I free to go? Your detainment must be legally justified and Police must have specific reasons to detain you.

  • Remember, minor traffic violations are not considered probable cause.


Legal Concealed weapons at a Traffic Stop
  • If you are a legal fire arm carrier, at a traffic stop you must tell the officer right away you have a legal concealed fire arm, not doing so is a crime.

  • Keep both your hands on the steering wheel in plain view with no sudden movements. Stay calm, be polite because mouthing off will only escalate to a bad situation and cause suspicion.

  • Advise the policeman that you have a legal concealed weapon.

  • Expect to be treated with extreme caution and Follow all instructions the police officer give you with no sudden movements.

  • Expect to be treated with extreme caution.

  • Once the police officer is satisfied you are not a threat he will most likely relax under most circumstances.

  • If the officer decides to disarm you, you should comply in a non-aggressive manner and let the Police Officers complete their investigation.


How do you know when you have been arrested?

You are officially under police custody once you have been advised of your Miranda Rights. However, you may still be under arrest even if not Mirandized. Legally speaking, if you are placed in a police vehicle and restrained or restricted to leave for a long period of time, handcuffed or situated in another fashion to inhibit your movement. The police usually have probable cause at this point and you are either under arrest or detained for criminal investigation.


Are Miranda Rights required upon arrest?

Police officers are well informed on each scenario when the reading of your Miranda rights is imperative. There are however many cases where a person has been arrested without being read their rights. It is important to read our Miranda Rights section to get a better understanding.


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