It can be quite unsettling to be driving along a North Carolina roadway and notice lights on a police car flashing behind you in your mirror. In such situations, it is always best to immediately pull over in the safest manner possible. Some drivers get so nervous that they feel like they have to do anything and everything a police officer tells them to do during a traffic stop.
In fact, there are several rights protected by amendments under the U.S. Constitution, which you may exercise during a traffic stop. Exercising these rights does not guarantee that you will not be issued a citation or taken into custody. However, it may help you feel less stressed and nervous to know that you do have some control over the situation.
You may invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent
One of the first things a police officer will do when pulling you over in a traffic stop is to ask to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. You hopefully would have all of these documents readily available. Beyond that, however, you do not have to answer any questions, such as where you were heading in your vehicle or whether you imbibed alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. You do not have to answer questions of interrogation without benefits of legal representation. There are no penalties for invoking your right to remain silent during a traffic stop.
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unlawful search or seizure
If a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you must obey. If, however, the officer asks you if it’s okay for him or her to search your car, you do not have to consent. You have protection under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution from having to consent to a search when an officer has not shown you a validly authorized warrant.
Be aware, however, that there are instances where a police officer does not need a warrant to conduct a search. Under normal circumstances, you are free to state that you are not consenting to a vehicle search.
You have a right to request an officer’s identification information
If a traffic stop escalates into a situation where you are in need of criminal defense, it is always good to document certain information. You may request the arresting officer’s badge number, patrol car number and agency that employs the officer. This information may come in handy, especially if you believe a personal rights violation took place during or following a traffic stop.