Even law-abiding citizens feel anxious when they’re pulled over. In part, this may be because they are unsure of their rights during interactions with law enforcement.
If you were pulled over by the police, you may have a few concerns about what rights you have. Generally, though, if an officer stops your vehicle, you’re required to provide identification and proof of insurance. You also have the right to ask for permission to leave or to ask for a search without legal grounds.
Can I record the police?
If a law enforcement officer stops you, you have the right to take pictures and videos of the interaction as long as you do not interfere with their responsibilities. It does not matter if you are interacting with them or if you happen to be in the area. Officers are not able to demand that you delete your pictures or videos. You are also under no obligation to provide your phone unless they have a warrant.
If an officer asks for you to stop taking pictures or videos, make them aware of your rights. This can vary depending on the circumstances of your individual case, so it may be best if you contact your lawyer and file a complaint about police misconduct afterward.
Can the police search you?
If the police attempt to search you without a warrant, or if they are relying on an invalid warrant, any evidence they may collect during this search would later be considered inadmissible in court.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from being held against your will, illegally searched, or seized without a warrant. However, with handcuffs, weapons can be removed without making an arrest.
Do I have to give permission for them to search my vehicle?
The police can’t search your vehicle without your permission unless they have a valid warrant. If you do not give them permission, they can only search if they find evidence of drugs “in plain view”- things like broken glass, drug paraphernalia, or other signs that are obviously illegal.
What to do when pulled over
If a police officer stops you, pull over immediately. Make sure to park in a safe place so that you don’t impede traffic. Also, try to have your hands on the wheel or dashboard whenever possible: it will make it easier for the officer to see them when he approaches your car.
Whenever you are stopped by police officers, it is important that you maintain a calm demeanor. You should notify the police if there are any firearms in your car and offer to provide the required documentation when requested. Making sudden movements can make it seem like there is a threat, even if that’s not true.