Police have one mission in their role as officers—to serve and protect. As officers of the law, we look to the police in times of need to help and keep us safe. For some, an encounter with the police may invoke feelings of nervousness or fear, regardless of circumstance. Here are some general things to know about being stopped by police regarding your rights.
If stopped in your car, here are some things to know. Officers cannot legally pull you over without probable cause. Probable cause means there is a very good reason to believe a person has committed a crime, or that evidence of a crime can be found in a specific space. Some examples of this include suspicious behavior that a driver is under the influence, swerving, or a clear violation of the law. If pulled over, it is important to comply with the officer and remember the stated reason for pulling you over.
When stopped, be sure to quickly pull your car over in a safe, well-lit place. You can pre-emptively roll down the window, and have your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance ready to show the officer should they ask. If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search unless they have a warrant. However, if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent. Same as being pulled over, officers must have probable cause to search your car, such as smelling drugs or alcohol, or seeing open beer bottles, firearms, or drug paraphernalia in plain view.