If you've been stopped by a police officer in Chester County, it's very important that you are aware of your rights. Knowledge is the key to avoiding an arrest and potential criminal charges.
Here are some of the most important rights you should consider flexing during a traffic stop:
An officer can't pull you over unless they have probable cause.
An officer is not allowed to pull you over on a mere hunch. To prevent racial profiling and other types of profiling, officers may only pull you over if they have a good reason, or “probable cause.” This means that a cop must verify that you violated the law in some way to justify a stop. This violation could be (and often is) insignificant, like the failure to use a turning signal, stop at a stop sign, or a broken taillight.
You have the right to refuse the search of your vehicle.
When the police pull you over, they may ask for your permission for them to search your vehicle. The answer to this question (if they don't have a warrant) should always be no, even if you feel like there's nothing incriminating in your vehicle. This is a tactic that many law enforcement use to get you to waive your Fourth Amendment rights, which protects you from unnecessary searches and seizures. If you consent to a search, anything an officer finds - whether you're aware of this item or not - can be used as justification to constitute an arrest.
It's important to note that refusing a search won't always prevent an officer from doing it anyway without your consent. However, he or she will have to provide their reasons for the search.
You have the right to stay in your vehicle.
The law doesn't require you to get out of your vehicle at a traffic stop, so it's legal to remain in your vehicle. Sometimes officers will make this request due to safety precautions. They may suspect that you have a concealed weapon and want to make sure it isn't being hidden. You can choose to comply or you may feel more comfortable in your vehicle, just remember to make the decision based on your interactions with the officer, and how safe you feel. Remember, your safety is a concern too.
You must be “Mirandized” before you can be asked about an alleged crime.
The police must read you a Miranda Warning prior to bringing you into custody or interrogating you about the alleged crime. Once you've been notified of your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney is when they can attempt to ask you about significant details about an incident. But regardless, it's in your best interest to not say anything to the authorities without an attorney present.
Chester 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 Chester 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.