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Drivers' Rights during Traffic Stops

Posted on in Traffic violations

Traffic stops, Illinois Defense Attorney, policeFor many people, traffic stops are their most common interaction with law enforcement. This is understandable since an independent study commissioned by the Illinois Department of Transportation reports that there are almost 2.5 million traffic stops in Illinois every year. Yet, despite the common nature of these stops most people do not understand the rights they have in these interactions.

For instance, many people do not realize that they are protected from being pulled over for no reason. Police officers need to have probable cause in order to stop a car without a warrant. However, given the number of potential traffic violations that officers have available, this is usually not a high barrier to being pulled over. The more important protections come into play after the traffic stop starts, such as the right to remain silent, and the right to refuse searches. The Right to Remain Silent The first right drivers have is the right to not answer an officer's questions. People may refuse to answer almost any question an officer has for them. The exceptions to this are requests for drivers' licenses, registration, and proof of insurance, which people must provide. Yet, other questions, such as "Where are you coming from?" do not need to be answered. However, this right exists in the real world. Being needlessly uncooperative with police or being rude to them has the potential to make the traffic stop harder than it has to be. If a driver is coming home from a bar at 3 a.m., they should probably not volunteer the information. If the driver is coming home from church at 11 in the morning, it may be better to just say that. The Right to Refuse Searches The law also provides people with the right to refuse to consent to a search of their vehicle. The limits of this right are important to understand. The right to refuse to consent to a search is not the same as the right to not be searched. Police officers are allowed to search people's cars if they have probable cause to believe that they will find evidence of a crime, regardless of whether the person consents. However, consent eliminates the need for probable cause. If a person does not consent to the search, and the officer finds something, then a lawyer may be able to get that evidence thrown out of the case because it came from an improper search. A driver's consenting to a search eliminates that potential strategy. This can be important because in many instances the evidence that the police found in the car will be key to proving the prosecution's case. The law provides a variety of rights to citizens in order to limit the power of the police. If you are being charged with a crime and think your rights were violated, contact a Kane County criminal defense attorney today.

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