When you are driving around Orlando on your way to work, taking the kids to school, or on your way to a favorite restaurant, the last thing you want to see is a police officer behind you flashing their blue lights.
Unfortunately, this means they are pulling you over for a traffic stop. Yet despite the panic you might start to feel, it is crucial to remember that police are required to follow certain rules in these situations, with one of the most important being that they generally cannot pull you over for no reason.
What if You are Doing Nothing Wrong?
On some days when you drive around Florida, you will likely notice numerous officers on patrol who seem ready to pull over every vehicle that comes their way. However, if you are doing nothing wrong while behind the wheel, police in most cases cannot pull you over for no reason.
Instead, they must have what is known as “probable cause,” meaning they must actually observe you breaking the law by doing such things as running a red light, speeding, or having the dreaded broken tail light.
Once a police officer pulls you over, you are legally in police custody until they give you permission to leave the scene. Even if the officer never places you under arrest and puts you in handcuffs, this is still considered to be a form of detention.
However, it is still important that you remember that when enforcing traffic laws, police have very limited authority. In fact, the only time you can expect a police officer to pull over a driver who has done nothing wrong is when the driver or vehicle resembles the description of a suspect for whom they are looking.
You Have Rights in These Situations
While you are sitting in your vehicle during a traffic stop, don’t let panic and worry drive your thinking. Instead, stay calm and remember that since police have limited authority in these situations, that means you have rights that need to be protected.
For example, you are under no obligation to provide them with any evidence they could use against you to place you under arrest. In fact, you can not only refuse to consent to have your vehicle searched, but you can also stay in your car and choose to answer only those questions pertaining to identifying yourself. Should an officer overstep their authority in such a situation and violate your constitutional rights, do not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at once.
Is a Warrant Required to Search My Vehicle?
When you are pulled over for a standard traffic violation, the police officer who does so has no authority to search your vehicle unless they have a search warrant. However, there can be exceptions to this in some situations.
For starters, you could give the officer consent to search your vehicle. In other instances, a search can be conducted if you’ve been placed under arrest or the officer has reason to think you have been involved in a crime.
Also, if evidence of a crime is in “plain view,” such as a bag of drugs on a car seat or blood-splattered inside your car, the officer then has probable cause to conduct a search. Likewise, the odor of marijuana gives the officers probable cause to search a vehicle, even without your consent in Florida.
Evidence and the Illegal Traffic Stop
Should an officer pull you over for no good reason but then discover drugs perched on your vehicle’s passenger seat, they will not be allowed to use this evidence against you in court. Since the officer lacked probable cause to initiate the stop, anything they find in your vehicle will be inadmissible if they try to build a case against you and seek prosecution.
Impacting Your Driving Record
If you are the victim of an illegal traffic stop and choose not to fight it, it can have a significant impact on your driving record. Should you allow yourself to be convicted of a serious traffic charge, this could lead to higher insurance premiums and other related implications.
Rather than let this happen, make sure your rights are protected by discussing your case with an Orlando Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney who has a track record of success handling such cases.
Get the Best Results
When police are conducting a traffic stop, they often try to intimidate the driver into making mistakes along the way. From allowing their car to be searched to answering questions about where they’ve been and where they are going, what begins as a traffic stop can quickly turn into a legal nightmare.
If you are currently experiencing such a situation, don’t let the police trample on your legal rights. Instead, hire a criminal defense lawyer who is committed to upholding your constitutional rights and seeing that justice prevails in your favor.