Have you experienced a traffic stop in the D.C./Virginia metro area? If so, you know it can be intimidating. If not, then here's what you should know to make sure your rights are upheld during the traffic stop.
Overview of What Happens During a Traffic Stop in Virginia
You have been pulled over. What happens next is in part up to you. You can choose to be aggressive, or you can choose to be polite even if you take steps to uphold your rights (as mentioned below).
After you are pulled over, the officer will approach your vehicle and request your driver's license, auto insurance, and car registration. He or she may also ask if you know why you were pulled over while observing you, any passengers, and the contents inside the vehicle that are in plain sight.
Depending on the course of events, you may be asked to step out of the vehicle. At this point, the officer may pat you down to ensure there are no weapons on you. You may also be asked to remove anything illegal from your pocket. If you are under arrest, you must remove anything from your pockets. If you are not under arrest, the officer cannot remove anything from your pocket without your consent or without a warrant except where there is a concern for the public's safety.
If the traffic stop turns into a DUI investigation, you will be asked to perform field sobriety tests. You are under no obligation to take these tests – but refusal can be used as an indication you are unlawfully intoxicated. You may also be asked to take a preliminary breath test – you can refuse this test, too, but to do so means automatic license suspension regardless of whether or not you are unlawfully intoxicated to drive.
At some other point, you will either be released and possibly ticketed or you will be arrested and possibly charged. It all depends on what specifically happens during the traffic stop.
In the event you have been pulled over, take a deep breath and remember you have rights. Below is an overview of your rights during a traffic stop and when to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Your Rights During a Traffic Stop in Virginia
You have rights during a traffic stop, but with those rights come responsibilities. Here is an overview of what to know.
You have a right to know why you were pulled over.
You have the right to know why you were pulled over, but it is most likely due to a moving violation. In any event, the officer may ask you if you know why you were pulled over – this is a tactic used to get you to admit to a traffic violation. Always state you do not know and force the officer to advise you why you were pulled over.
During this type of stop, the officer has the right to ask you basic identifying information and to see your driver's license, car registration, and auto insurance. You should provide this but no additional information.
You have a right to refuse a search of your body and your vehicle.
If you show signs of intoxication, the traffic stop can turn into a DUI investigation or another inquiry into criminal activity. The officer may want to check the vehicle and your person. As already mentioned, you have the right to refuse a search. The officer must then obtain a warrant. A warrant requires probable cause you committed a crime. For a DUI, that could be alcohol on your breath and an open container on the passenger seat.
When probable cause exists, you may also be placed under arrest. At this time, you and your vehicle will be searched by the police and any evidence will be seized. You will also be read the Miranda warning.
You have the right to remain silent.
As the Miranda warning states, you have the right to remain silent. Always decline information except for basic identifying information and auto registration and insurance. Be polite about it, but don't answer any questions.
You have the right to an attorney.
You have the right to an attorney. So, after you inform the police you respectfully refuse to answer questions, you can assert your right to an attorney. You can contact criminal defense attorney S.L. England after a traffic stop turns into an arrest, and especially if you believe your rights were violated.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney after a Traffic Stop in the Virginia/D.C. Metro Area
A traffic violation is probable cause to pull you over for that violation, but it can also be enough reasonable suspicion for the police to inquire into another crime, like driving under the influence. During a traffic stop, keep in mind you have rights and assert those rights when necessary.
If you are arrested, contact respected criminal defense attorney S.L. England. He will review your case, build a solid defense, and appropriately respond to any violation of your rights.