What is a traffic stop?
A traffic stop is when the police stop your car to investigate you for a possible crime or traffic violation. There are also two types of traffic stops: the checkpoint and the pull-over. At a checkpoint, the police will force every car to stop, while in a pull-over, officers will pull up behind a single vehicle and direct them to pull to the side of the road. In both cases, the police are often looking to ticket drivers for traffic violations, test for intoxication, or check for illegal contraband.
Traffic stops are the most common reason that people talk to police officers, so it’s important to know the type of behavior that will get you pulled over. Some of these reasons include:
- Officers believe the driver is driving under the influence (DUI)
- Your car has a broken tag light, taillight, headlight, or faulty brake lights
- Failure to use turn signals or changing lanes without properly signaling
- The driver is behaving erratically
- Your license plate has an outdated tag
- The driver was speeding, ran a red light, or broke other traffic laws
How To Act During A Traffic Stop
The most important thing to remember during a traffic stop is to remain calm and be respectful to the officer. Traffic stops are stressful for drivers and officers, so this will go a long way toward diffusing the situation and keeping everyone safe. When the officer approaches your car, roll down your window and keep your hands in clear view on the steering wheel. If it’s dark outside, you can also turn on your interior lights, so the officer can clearly see that you’re not hiding anything in your car. The officer will likely ask for your license and registration too, so have those ready to hand over.
If the officer asks you to step out of your car, you should follow his instructions and stay calm. Remember, it’s important not to make any sudden or aggressive movements that could escalate the situation. If the officer asks to search your car, you have the right to deny his request, but they can still search your car if they have a warrant or probable cause to conduct the search.
At this point, the officer will either let you leave, write you a ticket, or arrest you. If you get arrested, the officer will handcuff you and read your Miranda rights. Since your words can be used against you in a court case, it’s important to exercise your Miranda rights and remain silent until you have contacted a Georgia traffic attorney and received legal counsel.
Understanding A Driver’s Rights
As a driver, you have certain rights and responsibilities during a traffic stop. For example, you are required to show the officer your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked, and you also have to answer any questions about your identity. However, you don’t have to answer any questions that might incriminate you. This includes questions about where you’re going, where you’ve been, why you got pulled over, and whether you’ve been drinking.
Finally, if the officer requests that you use a breathalyzer, you can face serious consequences including arrest if you refuse to take the test. If you do find yourself facing a DUI in Georgia, be sure to contact a lawyer that is experienced in these situations to ensure that you fully understand the process and what must be done next.
You also have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle, but the officer may still search your vehicle if they have probable cause or a warrant. Some examples of probable cause include:
- There is evidence of a crime or contraband in plain view
- The driver has previously been arrested for a previous offense
- The officer believes the evidence will be destroyed if the vehicle is not searched immediately
- The vehicle has been involved in an accident and emergency services believe an officer needs to enter the vehicle
- The officer smells marijuana in the car or on the driver
Passenger Rights During A Traffic Stop
If you’re a passenger in a car that gets pulled over, you have the same rights as the driver. This includes the right to remain silent and the right to refuse a search of your person or belongings. Unlike drivers, you also have the right to ask the officer why the car has been stopped and if you can leave the vehicle. If the officer refuses your request, then it’s important to stay calm and follow their instructions as long as they don’t violate your rights.
If the officer ends up arresting the driver, don’t try to interfere with the arrest, since this will only make the situation worse. Instead, stay calm and ask the officer what you should do, then follow their instructions. Depending on the situation, the officer may let you take the vehicle or may help you find another means of transportation.
What To Do if You’re Arrested
If you’re arrested during a traffic stop, the officer will read your Miranda rights and place you in handcuffs. It’s important to exercise your rights and remain silent until you have a lawyer present. If you say anything to the officer that may incriminate you, then that information can be used against you in court.
After you’ve been arrested, the officer will take you to the local jail or adult detention center for booking. During this process, you’ll have your mugshot and fingerprints taken, and you may be searched again. You’ll also be asked to sign paperwork and given a phone call. It’s important to use this phone call to contact a lawyer or bail bondsman since they can help you navigate the legal process and get you out of jail.
If you’re unable to post the bail set on your arrest warrant, or if you were denied bail initially, you’ll have to remain in jail until your arraignment, which is typically within 48 hours of your arrest. At your arraignment, the judge will set your bail and hear any charges against you. If you can’t afford bail or the judge doesn’t release you, then you’ll return to jail until your trial.
Hire An Experienced Traffic Offense Lawyer
If you’ve been issued a traffic ticket or been arrested during a traffic stop, then it’s important to hire an experienced Woodstock criminal lawyer. At Fennell, Briasco, & Associates, we understand the intricacies of Georgia’s traffic laws, and we have experience with complicated cases involving traffic offenses. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so we can review your case and help you understand your rights.