Do police have a right to stop me if I have done nothing wrong?
Whether the police have a right to stop you depends not on what you know but on what the police believe. Obviously the police can stop you if you have committed a traffic violation or a crime a in their presence. Police can also stop you for a brief investigatory stop or inquiry based on “reasonable suspicion” that you are involved in a criminal activity. This may be, for example, because you fit the description of a suspect who recently committed a crime in the area. Finally, police can stop you if they have a warrant for your arrest or you are in a property for which they have a search warrant.
What are my rights if I am stopped by the police?
Other than providing your name/identity to the police, you have no obligation to give them any additional information. Even if you are not read your Miranda rights, you have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to refuse searches of your vehicle, bags, and home.
The police may do a “pat down” for officer safety if they have reason to believe you may be armed or dangerous. This “pat down” should be limited to feeling the outer side of your clothing for objects that may be weapons.
How should I respond if stopped by the police?
You should also be respectful to the police officers and avoid movements that may make a police officer worried about his or her safety. Stay calm and under control. Don’t argue with a police officer. It is better to simply refuse to speak to a police officer than to argue or become agitated.
Other than providing your name and identity, no. After providing your name and identity, you should ask the police officer, “Am I free to go?” If the police officer says you are not free to go, then you should them him or her, “I respectfully exercise my right to remain silent and my right to have any attorney present during any questioning.”
If the police officers says you are free to leave, you should leave.
The police can only search your car if you give them permission or the officer has “probable cause” to believe there is contraband or evidence of a crime in the car. However, during a traffic stop, officers are free to look into the car and can form “probable cause” based on thise observations, such as seeing some burnt marijuana or a glass pipe.
If you are not free to leave, then you should tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent and desire to have your lawyer present for any further questioning. Then you should do just that – refuse to answer any further questions. Do not consent to any search of your person, car, or other belongings.
You may possibly extend the duration of the stop. But if you are respectfull and you haven’t done anything illegal, you will be on your way very shortly. If you have done something illegal, you don’t want to give the police the evidence to convict you.
Attorney Patrick Korody is a former Navy JAG lawyer with over 15 years experience in military defense and criminal defense. He has successfully represented hundreds of clients in state, federal, and military courts. He handles state and federal cases in and around Jacksonville, Florida and military defense cases worldwide. Contact Korody Law at (904) 383-7261 for a free case evaluation.