In the event that you've been stopped by a police officer in Bucks County, it's very important that you are aware of your rights. Knowledge is the key to avoiding an arrest and a potential conviction.
Here are some of the most important rights you can flex during a traffic stop:
An officer can't pull you over unless they have probable cause.
An officer can't pull you over based on a hunch. They need a good reason, or “probable cause,” to suspect that you've done something wrong and make a stop based on this suspicion. A cop must be able to identify that you've violated the law in some way to justify a stop. This reason could be (and often is) insignificant like the failure to use a turning signal, speeding, or driving with a broken taillight.
Although this may sound like good news to “law-abiding citizens,” the reality is that just about anybody can be pulled over. Police are still allowed a lot of discretion for when and who they decide to pull over. If you follow anyone around long enough, it's likely that they will violate Pennsylvania Vehicle Code at one point or another.
You have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle.
If a police officer pulls you over, they might ask for you to search your vehicle. This question is a tactic that many law enforcement officers use to get you to waive your Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unwarranted searches and seizures. Even if you feel as if there isn't anything incriminating in your car, the answer should always be no. If you indicate that you've consented to a search, anything they find - whether you're aware of its presence or not - can be used to constitute an arrest.
It's important to note that your refusal may not always work. An officer may still perform a search without consent, but they will have to justify their reasons for the search in a police report.
You have the right to stay in your car.
There is no law that states that you must get out of your car during a stop, so it's perfectly legal to remain seated. Oftentimes, when officers ask people to step out of their car, it's a precautionary measure. They want to make sure that you aren't hiding any concealed weapons. But remember, your safety should be considered too. You can gauge, based on your interactions with the officer, whether or not it's in your best interest to either get out of the car or to stay seated.
You must be “Mirandized” before you can be asked about a crime.
The police are required to read a person the Miranda Warning before they intend to bring them into custody and interrogate them. Before you are asked about any details of your incident, make sure the police clearly and directly notify you that you have a right to remain silent, you have a right to an attorney, and that they ask if you understand what's being told to you. It is then, and only then, when they can attempt to ask you specific details about your incident.
Regardless, it's recommended that you don't say anything to the authorities without an attorney present.
Bucks County Criminal Defense Attorney
When you've been stopped, protecting yourself should be your main priority. The most effective way of doing so is to retain a skilled Bucks County criminal defense attorney. Legal professional Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented countless clients who've acquired misdemeanor and felony charges and has helped them get their sentence reduced, and their charges dismissed. For a case evaluation, contact him today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353.