It can happen any time you’re driving through Columbus: a police vehicle behind you turns on its siren and flashing lights. You’re getting pulled over.
What happens next can mean you will get arrested, spend the night in jail and face criminal charges like OVI or drug possession. Or the officer might let you go without even giving you a ticket. You cannot control what the officer will do, but you can take steps to protect your rights. Here are your rights during a traffic stop.
- You have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You don’t have to answer any questions from the police. The only exception is that you have to provide your name, driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance on request. Passengers don’t have to answer questions either, except to provide their name, address and date of birth.
- Under the Fourth Amendment, you can refuse permission to search your person and your vehicle. The officer has the right to pat you down if they have a reasonable suspicion you are armed, but otherwise, they might have to get a search warrant. If the police conduct a search anyway, state out loud that you do not consent — but do not try to resist physically.
- If you get arrested, the Six Amendment recognizes your right to an attorney. If in doubt, ask the officer if you are free to leave or if you are under arrest. If you have been arrested, say you want to talk to your lawyer, and you won’t answer any questions until that happens. You can have your attorney present with you during police questioning. Also, anything you tell your lawyer in confidence is protected by attorney-client privilege.
There is not much you can do in the moment when the police violate your rights, such as by searching your vehicle without your permission or a valid warrant. But by observing and reporting this to your defense attorney later on, you may be able to get any evidence seized thrown out of court. This would greatly improve the chances of the charges getting reduced or dismissed.