Your Rights and Responsibilities During a Traffic Stop
For many people, the only time they come into contact with the police is during a traffic stop. Statistics show that almost half of all face-to-face interactions that U.S. residents had with police occurred due to being pulled over while driving. Of those interactions, about half resulted in the driver being issued a ticket. Only about three percent of all stopped drivers end up being searched by police during a traffic stop.
Being pulled over by the police can be a scary situation. Many drivers are not sure what their rights and responsibilities are during a traffic stop. It is imperative that every citizen understands what to do during a police interaction as well as what not to do.
If You See Flashing Lights, You Must Pull Over As Soon It Is Safe to Do So
Declining to stop for police or eluding a police officer is a criminal act. If a police officer tells you to stop, you are required to do so by law. A police officer may verbally instruct you to stop or he or she may flash his or her lights to signify that you need to pull over. Section 11-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code states that fleeing a police officer is a Class A misdemeanor offense which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, you could be charged with a felony depending on the facts of your case if you attempt to flee from an officer.
You May Politely Decline to Answer Unnecessary Questions
An officer may ask questions like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “How fast do you think you were going?” It is important to keep in mind that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S Constitution gives citizens the right to politely decline questions which may incriminate them. Furthermore, you have the right to refuse a vehicle search, but police may search the vehicle anyway if they believe there are weapons or other illegal contraband in the vehicle and they have probable cause to search.
Never Escalate the Situation or Become Overly Emotional
Some police encounters start off as a routine traffic stop but then evolve into much more dramatic scenarios. In order to prevent the situation from becoming hostile, it is vital to remain calm when speaking with a police officer. You should stand up for you rights when it is appropriate, but never do so in a provocative or threatening manner. Using words like “sir,” “ma’am,” “please,” and “thank you” can help show the police officer conducting the traffic stop that you are not a threat. Remember to keep your hands visible and remain in the car unless directed to step out.
Facing Charges Related to a Traffic Stop?
Contact a Will County traffic violations attorney for sound legal guidance regarding any criminal charges related to a traffic stop. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation today.