In many traffic stops, the real reason why police officers pull drivers over is not for texting, speeding, running a stop sign, or failing to use a turn signal. In most cases, the traffic stop occurs because the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This type of stop is known pretextual stop, and they were deemed Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whren v. United States, even if the officer has an ulterior motive for pulling the driver over.
DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are also constitutional. It is important to realize that while traffic stops are legal your constitutional rights still apply at these traffic stops.
It is important to note that a police officer may not constitutionally search your vehicle unless there is probable cause to do so. This usually means that an officer believes it is more likely than not that you are violating a law and evidence of that crime may be in your vehicle. For example, probable cause that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol might include smelling alcohol on the driver’s breath, hearing slurred speech, or observing drugs or alcohol in the vehicle in plain view. An automatic search of a driver’s vehicle without probable cause (or an applicable legal exception to probable cause) is unconstitutional.
The officer may also search the driver’s vehicle if he or she has a warrant – or if the driver consents to the search. If a police drug dog alerts, that may also constitute the necessary probable cause to search a vehicle.
Answering a Police Officer’s Questions at a Traffic Stop
It is also important to note that during a traffic stop, you are not required to answer a police questions or admit to breaking the law. This is called your legal right against self-incrimination. This constitutional right stems from the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. You cannot be forced to answer a police officer’s questions or to speak on your own without having an attorney present.
Call Us Today to Speak with a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
At the Khonsari Law Group, our experienced attorneys can assist you if you believe that your constitutional rights have been violated at a traffic stop. Having representation throughout your entire criminal case is extremely important. Please contact us today at 727–269–5300 for a free consultation.