What are your rights during a traffic stop?

Posted By Thomas Wallin || 27-Jul-2015

The Sandra Bland case has many people wondering what their rights are during a traffic stop. The officer in the Bland case seems aggressive to say the least, but did he violate Sandra Bland’s rights? The video below shows the interaction between Ms. Bland and the officer. The public and legal professionals have heavily scrutinized the video and the stop.

Officers have the right to stop you for violating any section of the vehicle code applicable in the state. In Ms. Bland’s case she was stopped for failing to signal a lane change. This is a legitimate stop. Officers can pull you over for expired registration, a broken taillight, obstructed view, failing to maintain your lane or any number of other vehicle code violations. It is strongly recommended that you become familiar with your state’s vehicle code and any possible violations.

Do you have to get out of the car if ordered to do so by an officer? In short, yes. If an officer has detained you, he or she can order you out of the vehicle. An officer cannot detain you at a vehicle stop for an unreasonable amount of time, but once detained they can order you out of the car for public safety reasons. Defense attorneys across the nation agree that you should obey an officer’s orders and fight it in court after the fact. Being argumentative, aggressive or belligerent will not help your case and will likely end in your arrest – justified or not.

Does the officer have a right to search your vehicle? Do you have the right to record the stop? An officer has the right to search your vehicle if you give them consent to search it or if they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle. They can also search it if they reasonably believe it is necessary for their safety or pursuant to an arrest. You are able to record an officer when they are performing official duties in public. Thus, you are legally allowed to record an officer during a traffic stop.

What do you think? Was the officer justified in his actions? Would you have handled yourself differently? Did things escalate unnecessarily? Leave your comments below.