Law enforcement officials have a job to keep Georgians safe on and off the road. This means conducting traffic stops and pulling people over.
What many motorists don’t know is that certain rights protect them, even when pulled over by an officer. Some of those rights include:
Providing probable cause
Officers must have probable cause to pull you over in the first place. Probable cause is broad and can include things like a broken headlight or tail light. It can also be based on driving behaviors. If you’re speeding or swerving, the officer has a justifiable reason to pull you over.
Right to refuse a vehicle search
Unless you have an open beverage container or other illegal items sitting in plain view for the officer to see, you can say no to a vehicle search. If an officer asks you to search your vehicle, even if you have nothing to hide, it’s okay to politely refuse.
Of course, if the officer has a warrant to search your car you cannot refuse that request.
Making a safe stop
You are allowed to continue driving with the police behind you until you find a safe shoulder to pull over. It’s best to signal to the officer with your hand that you are looking for a safer location and to drive the speed limit.
Don’t drag it on too long or you’ll risk racking up other offenses like fleeing an officer.
Staying inside the car
If you feel safer remaining inside your vehicle, you’re allowed to do so. Officers usually ask you to step out of the car to ensure you have no concealed weapons or dangerous substances, but you do not have to leave your vehicle.
Politely explain to the officer you feel safer inside your car if they ask you to exit.
Understanding what’s allowed at a traffic stop
It’s important to know what law enforcement can and cannot do when they pull you over. By staying calm and knowing your rights, you give yourself the best chance to avoid serious issues.
If you’re pulled over and end up facing DUI charges, a criminal defense attorney can help you explore your options.