What Are Your Rights if the Police Pull You Over?

Almost every driver will experience some iteration of the following scenario: you’re running a little late to work, school, or another engagement and decide to cruise a few ticks over the speed limit. You think you’re going a reasonable speed, but, all of a sudden, the flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror indicate otherwise. After presenting your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, the officer then presents you with a citation for speeding. Your day is ruined, but you live and learn. 

What if the traffic stop becomes more involved than the one outlined in that scenario? For instance, what if the police officer asks you to search your car? In that situation, it helps to know the rights you have as a Texas motorist. 

When Can the Police Stop You? 

To make a traffic stop in the first place, the police must have reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation. Again, clocking you driving over the speed limit is one way the police can gather reasonable suspicion. 

After You’ve Stopped

You are obligated to provide police with identification and, if you were driving, registration and proof of insurance. Beyond that, though, you aren’t required to offer any other information. A general rule of thumb is to be polite with the officer and comply with any requests. The best — and safest — venue to protest any actions you feel were unlawful is the courtroom. 

The police may spend a few minutes running your plate and ID to make sure the car belongs to you and you have no active warrants. When the officer is interacting with you outside your car, he or she may take a few glances inside your car to check for anything suspicious. The officer may use other senses, such as hearing and smell, to ascertain if there is probable cause to search your vehicle. 

Let’s say an officer pulls you over and says he smells marijuana. At this point, the officer likely has probable cause to believe that criminal activity is afoot. This means your vehicle can be searched without your consent or a warrant signed by a judge. If it turns out that the officer never had probable cause to search your vehicle, a quality criminal defense attorney can expose this and possibly get evidence excluded at your trial. 

Don’t Forget About Your Handgun Permit

As a licensed carrier of handguns, you are obligated to inform police if you have any weapons on your person or in your car and indicate where the weapons are located. This can ultimately add a layer of protection to you and the officer. 

Just as we might have a bad day and commit a minor infraction, police officers may have a bad day and be rude to you at a traffic stop. Sometimes, that’s just bad luck. Other times, the police officer who pulled you over did not follow lawful procedures and violated your rights. If you think that might have happened to you, we want to hear about it. Call our office at 713-227-4100 to set up a free consultation today.

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The Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, III

Our firm’s founder, Charles A. Banker III, has been a solo criminal defense practitioner with offices in Houston and McAllen, TX for over 30 years. He understands what it means to work independently in today’s hyperconnected world, but he also knows that sometimes you need to lean on others.

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