Simply stated: don’t give law enforcement a reason to stop you. Many times someone is stopped for a traffic violation and arrested for something more serious. A law enforcement officer can perform a traffic stop if they have “reasonable suspicion” that you violated a law or they actually see you violate the law. When you drive over the speed limit, drive with an expired tag, or don’t use a turn signal when changing lanes the police can pull you over. Once you are pulled over the law enforcement officer can look into your car from the outside. If they see something in plain sight inside that would give them “probable cause” to believe that you have committed a crime; they can arrest you and possibly search your car.
A common example is when a law enforcement officer observes someone speeding and they initiate a traffic stop. Once the car is pulled over the police officer walks up to the driver-side window to speak with the driver and obtain their license and insurance information. While speaking with the officer, the officer detects an odor of alcohol coming from the person or inside the car. Legally the officer can then ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test and/or take a breathalyzer. If the driver had been drinking and their blood alcohol content is over the legal limit they can be arrested. If they had been drinking and they don’t perform the field sobriety test well enough in the eyes of the officer, they will be arrested.
Another common situation is a traffic stop in which the officer observes drug paraphernalia in the console of the car when looking into it. The officer can then search the car for evidence of drugs and the occupants of the car can be arrested. Remember, there is no reason to panic just because a law enforcement officer has stopped you. You should remain calm and do not argue with the officer. Arguing with the officer will only make matters worse. The officer could become suspicious and look for reasons to arrest you rather than simply issuing you a ticket for the violation and moving on. Furthermore, being hostile and unresponsive can possibly lead to additional charges such as resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. Like a coach arguing with a referee, they are never going to change their call just because you argue with them; it will only make them mad at you.
Keep in mind that there is a fine line between being respectful and waiving your constitutional rights. If you know or think there could be drugs in the car, do not consent to a search of your vehicle. If the officer does not see any drugs or lacks a “reasonable suspicion” that there are drugs in the vehicle, then you have every right to refuse consent to the search of your vehicle.
If you or someone you know has been arrested it is important to immediately hire an experienced attorney such as the ones at the Broward, Miami-Dade & Palm Beach County Criminal Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. If the initial stop or search of your vehicle was handled incorrectly by the police and your constitutional rights were violated, it may be possible to have some or all of the evidence suppressed or possibly have the entire case dropped.