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Know Your Rights Before You Get Pulled Over

Most Americans have limited interactions with the police but are only aware of this once they get pulled over. Imagine that you are pulled over because your inspection sticker expired last week. The police officer asks you to step out of the car because they want to search your vehicle. Do you have to comply? Are they within their rights to ask you if you have been drinking? These questions surface, and you become frighteningly aware that you don’t know what you should and should not do. 

This blog aims to provide you with a basic understanding of what you can be pulled over for, what you can’t, and how you should act during the traffic stop, so you don’t make the situation worse. The time to challenge the police is through the legal system, with an experienced criminal law attorney supporting you. The 4th Amendment protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, and your car is an extension of your property. With that in mind, let’s discuss your rights during a traffic stop.


New Laws Regarding Minor Infractions

We provided a scenario where a police officer pulled someone over because their inspection had expired. In 2021, Virginia passed laws preventing police officers from using minor offenses as probable cause to search for evidence of other crimes. For instance, if your inspection is less than four months expired, the police cannot use that as the primary reason to pull you over to see if you have been drinking. Minor offenses include


  • Smelling alcohol or marijuana
  • Window tint
  • Broken tail lights
  • Inspection stickers that have been expired for less than four months
  • Loud exhaust 
  • Items hanging from your rearview mirror


That doesn’t mean you cannot be cited for having an expired inspection as long as it wasn’t the reason they pulled you over. If you run a red light, the police can pull you over because they witnessed you committing a traffic violation. The same applies to speeding, swerving, or running a stop sign. After which, they may discover some minor offenses—which you can be cited for. They may also smell alcohol in the car. Because they had a valid reason to pull you over, they will investigate additional crimes. 


Do You Know Why I Stopped You?

You do not have to answer incriminating questions. If you wish to remain silent, then politely express your desire to do so. However, the police can ask for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. You will have to provide the police with this information. 

One of the most common questions is whether to submit to a field sobriety test. This differs by state, which is why many people offer different answers to this question. You do not have to submit to a field sobriety test in Virginia. If a police officer conducts one, they likely have already decided to arrest you. A field sobriety test provides them with more evidence against you. There are also no consequences for refusing one. You must comply if you are arrested and asked to take a chemical breath test. Failing to do so results in a mandatory suspension of your license. 


Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

The attorneys at Norton Pelt are committed to representing people facing criminal charges, regardless of their size and severity. Contact our Norton Pelt and schedule a consultation about a legal issue connected to a violent crime, drug charge, or traffic violation.

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Norton Pelt, PLC

We work hard to ensure we provide the best legal experience possible and make it a priority to get to know each client so we can help you through virtually every type of legal event you may go through.

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