Understanding Your Rights During Traffic Stops
Justification for Stops
If you get stopped you have certain rights that you can unknowingly waive and jeopardize your freedom. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that because someone in a car has a better ability to successfully flee a crime scene and hide or destroy evidence, the police have a higher ability to search and/or detain you and your vehicle for investigations.
|3 Things to Know, Now
Whether you believe you are intoxicated or not, answering police questions can lead to your arrest. When you admit drinking alcohol, being on certain medications, or coming from entertainment or high crime areas you give the police justification to extend the length of time they can detain you for investigation. The longer they spend with you, the higher probability you will be arrested for something…anything.
Texas Driver’s Rights, DWI and Other Stops
When you get stopped you have the right to:
- Refuse to answer questions about where you are coming from or going to.
- Refuse to answer questions about whether you have been drinking.
- Refuse to answer questions about medical conditions.
- Refuse to answer questions about medicine you are taking.
- Refuse to answer questions about whether there are drugs or alcohol in your vehicle.
- Refuse to grant CONSENT to search your vehicle.
- Refuse to take any field sobriety tests.
- Refuse to take a portable breath test.
- Refuse to empty your pockets.
- Refuse to unlock any sealed or locked container or compartment of your vehicle.
What you have to do
If you get stopped there are certain things you are required by law to give the police officer. You must provide the officer:
- Your name and current address.
- A copy of your vehicle registration.
- A copy of your proof of insurance.
- A copy of your driver’s license.
Provide this information to the police, but politely refuse to answer any other questions.
How to Politely Refuse Police Questions
When you get stopped by the police you are under a unique set of psychological pressures to answer their questions and fulfill their commands or requests of you. The police know this, and use this knowledge to get you to give them information that will lead to your arrest.
The key to refusing police questioning is to remain calm, but assured in your rights. If you get angry, verbally aggressive, or insulting your chances of getting arrested and getting convicted of a crime will greatly increase. Although you may feel justified in your anger, the way you conduct yourself will determine your fate with the police encounter.
The best advice for how to conduct yourself during a police encounter is:
- Remain calm and keep your voice volume at a normal level. (If you speak in a high or fast pitch the officer will believe you are on drugs, or have mental issues.)
- Do not use profanity. (The officer is likely recording you and will play this tape in front of the jury. Jurors do not like it when defendants disrespect police officers.)
- Do not insult the officer, police in general, the government, or their tactics. (It goes back to the respect issue.)
- Call the officer sir or ma’am. (Show respect for the office even if you disagree with the officer.)
- Keep your hands out of your pockets, and in plain sight of the officer. (Officer safety is the number one priority of police. If you make them fearful for their safety you put your own safety at risk.)
- Do not make sudden or threatening gestures. (See number 5.)
- Do not tell the officer about your cousin, friend, or other police officers you know. (Doing so will not get you out of a ticket, and will appear to be an attempt to improperly influence the officer’s arrest or no arrest decision.)
- Calmly explain to the police that you do not wish to answer any questions, and will remain silent. (Remain firm, but reasonable in tone and volume.)
- Remain silent. Do not offer any information to the officer about why you feel his decisions or actions are wrong. (You will not change his mind of whether to arrest you, and will only give him more information for his report.)
- Follow the officer’s orders. (You are legally required to follow the lawful order of a police officer. Failure to do so will result in additional charges.)
Contact Our Staff Attorneys To Learn More
If you have questions, or want to learn more about your rights when it comes to police stops in Houston, Harris County, Texas, contact Houston DWI attorneys Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock for more information and/or for an extensive education about your civil rights in these situations.