Your Rights During a Traffic Stop – What Can The Police Do?
Now, more than ever, you need to know what the police can and cannot do when you are stopped for a traffic detention, or when you are otherwise being investigated for a crime. This page briefly outlines your rights during a traffic stop, so you can be safe and keep out of jail or prison and answers the question of Your Rights During a Traffic Stop – What Can The Police Do?
Know the Law – The Fourth Amendment
The US Constitution, Fourth Amendment states as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This applies even if you are not a U.S. Citizen. Everyone in the United States has those rights, as they apply against the police, not attach to the person.
Know Your Rights – The Three Level of Police/Citizen Encounters
- Investigative Detention; and
Casual conversation characterizes this section. If an officer you ask, “am I free to leave“, the officer would respond, “yes“, if consensual.
Q: Am I required to show ID?
Legal Searches Allowed: A legal search of anything that is consented to or is in plain sight would be upheld by courts.
This section is characterized by temporary detainment for further information. The legal standard used to review actions of the police is Reasonable Articulable Suspicion.
Q: Am I free to leave?
Q: Am I required to show ID?
Police: Yes. Or No.
This actually depends on the State you are in. Here, in California, you do not have to show ID. California is one of 26 states that do not require you to show ID during investigative detention.
Legal Searches Allowed: A legal search is allowed during a frisk of your person, or of anything that is in plain sight, or is agreed to be searched by consent.
Warning Signs that Police Officers Look For:
- Gang clothing
- Unusual attire for the area (i.e., wearing a ski mask in summer)
- DARE/Police decals
- Tag or registration issues
- Fix it issues with a vehicle
- A crime occurring, like breaking and entering
Suspicious Items or Paraphernalia
- Slim Jim
- Rolling Papers
- Badges or Scales
- Spray Paint
- Baseball Bat
An arrest occurs when you are taken into police custody. You are not free to leave as you are detained at that point. The highest evidence level is required.
Q: Am I under arrest?
Am I required to show ID?
Legal Searches Allowed: Frisk, plain sight, consensual, inventory of items, or warrant.
If you have been arrested for a crime, and are curious about your rights given the individual facts of your case, remember that you always have the right to challenge a criminal charge against you. And the police do make mistakes all the time. Any plea to a criminal charge can have serious life consequences you need to consider. It makes sense for you to make sure you’ve evaluated all of the legal defense options available to you under California criminal law, and the Constitution of the United States.