You hear the siren and see the dreaded flashing lights behind you, but you are sure you haven’t done anything wrong. Can the police pull you over even if you haven’t broken the law? Technically, no—they cannot. But they have an arsenal of justifications for making a traffic stop, so you may just have to cooperate and deal with the possible fallout later.
Legal Reasons for a Traffic Stop
While law enforcement must have a valid reason for pulling you over, you might not be aware of what that reason is when you hear the siren and see the lights. That’s why it is important that you pull over and follow instructions. Police can pull you over if they believe any of the following:
You have violated a traffic law.
This is obvious. If you were speeding, ran a red light, failed to yield, or broke any other traffic law, you can be pulled over. You might not be aware that you broke the law, but if a police officer believes you did, he can stop you.
Your vehicle is out of compliance with Florida motor vehicle regulations.
You might have a tail light with a burned-out bulb, an expired license plate, or a malfunctioning turn signal. These are legitimate reasons for a traffic stop.
You or your car matches the description of a suspect.
If the police are looking for someone who committed a crime and your car is a similar make and model, or they think you resemble the suspect, they can pull you over to question you.
As you can see, these reasons can be applied to a variety of situations. In other words, the police can pull you over for almost anything—or even for nothing. However, once you have been stopped, you would be smart to follow the officer’s instructions.
Your Rights During a Traffic Stop
We’ve all seen the horrible consequences of traffic stops gone wrong. You do have rights when you are pulled over, but it is important to protect your own safety first. You can do this by giving the officer your driver’s license and registration if he asks for them and answering his questions—within reason. Be aware that you have the following rights:
You have the right to remain silent.
If you would incriminate yourself by answering the officer’s questions honestly, you do not have to answer them.
You can call an attorney.
If you are being accused of something beyond a traffic violation, you should call an attorney immediately and let him answer questions on your behalf.
You do not have to grant permission for a search of your vehicle.
Officers can search your vehicle if you allow them to. They can also search without your permission if they see something suspicious or have reason to believe your car contains evidence of a crime.
The most important thing you can do is remain calm and avoid confrontation. If you have been pulled over by an aggressive cop who is determined to cause trouble, your best bet is to follow his instructions and contact an attorney as soon as you can afterward. If the officer violated your rights with an illegal traffic stop, search of your vehicle, or physical assault, he could be held accountable and evidence could be excluded after the fact if you have strong legal representation.
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If you've recently found yourself in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Miami you should contact me as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact me online or to call my Coral Gables office directly at 305.707.7345. You can also request my free book "The Ultimate Guide To Fighting Criminal Charges In Florida", a detailed download discussing the myths, rumors and hearsay often associated with criminal charges, what to expect from your criminal court proceedings and important steps you must take to battle your charges.