When you’re pulled over by police, the U.S. Constitution guarantees you certain rights. That’s true whether you’re the driver or the passenger. You have these rights even if you’re not a U.S. citizen or you’re here without the proper documentation.
You have the right to remain silent, and if you’re a passenger, you have the right to ask if you’re free to leave.
Your Right to Remain Silent
Most traffic stops are pretty routine, though, and often result in a ticket or a warning. Police may pull you over because they suspect you’ve committed an actual crime (rather than a traffic violation, like failing to use your turn signal), or they may suspect you’ve committed a crime (or you’re in the process of committing a crime) after they stop you for something else.
You don’t have to say anything. However, if you do choose to exercise your right to remain silent, you do have to let police know verbally. You can say, “I want to use my right to remain silent.”
If you’re pulled over, your best bet is to:
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel
- Don’t reach for your ID or any of your documentation until the police officer says it’s okay to do so
- Be respectful, even if you’re only telling the police that you want to use your right to remain silent
You can always answer the officer’s questions if you choose to, though. Just be careful not to admit guilt. For example, if the police officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” you can say, “Can you tell me?” If the police officer says, “I clocked you doing 50 in a 40 mile-per-hour zone,” you should say, “I see,” or “I understand.”
Your Right to Ask if You’re Free to Leave
If you’re the passenger in a vehicle and the driver is pulled over, you can ask the police if you’re free to leave. As long as police aren’t arresting you, you have the right to leave – and you should absolutely do so silently.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About a Violation of Your Rights or Being Charged With a Crime?
If you believe police pulled you over and illegally obtained evidence to charge you with a crime, we may be able to help you.
Call us at 414-383-6700 to tell us about your situation. We’ll ask you some questions (and answer yours), and if you’ve been charged with a crime, we can build a defense that gets you the best possible outcome.