If you've been stopped by a police officer in Montgomery County, it's very important that you are aware of your rights. Knowledge is the key to avoiding an arrest, criminal charges, and a potential conviction.
Here are some of the most important rights you should consider flexing during a stop:
An officer can't pull you over unless they have probable cause.
An officer can't pull you over based on a mere hunch. They need a good reason, or “probable cause” to make a stop. A cop must be able to prove that you've violated the law in some way to justify a stop. This violation could be (and often is) insignificant. You could be pulled over for the failure to use a turning signal, speeding, or driving with a broken taillight.
You have the right to refuse the search of your vehicle.
If a police officer pulls you over, don't be surprised if they ask you to search your vehicle. This question is a tactic used by many law enforcement agents to get you to waive your Fourth Amendment rights. These are the rights that protect against unwarranted searches and seizures. Even if you feel like there isn't anything incriminating in your vehicle, the answer should always be no. But if you end up consenting to a search, remember that anything they find - whether you're aware that it's there or not - can be used to constitute an arrest.
It's important to note that refusing a search may not work. Some officers have been known to perform a search without consent. But they will have to justify their reasons in a police report.
You have the right to stay in your vehicle.
There is no law that dictates that you must stay in your vehicle during a stop, so it's legal for you to stay seated. In most cases, when an officer asks you to step out of your car, it's for precautionary purposes. They want to affirm that you aren't hiding any concealed weapons. But their safety shouldn't be the only concern. You can gauge, based on your interactions with an officer, whether or not it's in your best interest to get out of the car or to stay seated.
You must be “Mirandized” before you can be asked about an alleged crime.
Law enforcement is required to read a suspect the Miranda Warning before they intend to put them in custody and interrogate them. Before you are asked any details about your incident, you need to make sure that 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 these rights. It is then, and only then, when they can attempt to ask you certain details about an incident.
Regardless, it's recommended that you don't say anything to authorities without an attorney present.
Montgomery 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 Montgomery 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.