Know your rights when authorities stop you

Having authorities pull you over is often anxiety-inducing, and the actions you take shortly after may have a large impact on the outcome of an associated criminal case. For this reason, it is critical that you understand your rights when law enforcement officials stop you, and that you recognize when authorities violate them.

Per the American Civil Liberties Union, you have the right to remain silent during a traffic stop. This holds true regardless of whether you are the driver of the vehicle or the passenger. If you are the passenger in the vehicle and you wish to leave it during the traffic stop, you may be able to do so after requesting permission.

Interacting with authorities

If you do decide to speak with authorities, try to remain calm and respectful so as not to escalate the situation. Pull the vehicle over as soon as possible when summoned by blue lights. Roll your window down partway and put your hands on the steering wheel. If you are in the passenger seat, place your hands on the glove box where they are clearly visible.

Reporting violations

If you feel as if law enforcement officers violated your rights during a traffic stop, you have options. The more information you have about officer names, agencies, vehicles and potential witnesses, the better your chances of successfully arguing your case. If you suffered injuries during a traffic stop, document them using photos. Seek medical attention if necessary, and maintain records of your doing so.

Once you file a formal, written complaint, you may need to produce all documentation and evidence related to the incident. More on criminal defense is available on our webpage.