Know your rights

Cassandra Maffeo

Staff Writer, Eissey Campus

Police Stop

Jost Rodriguez, a student at Palm Beach State College, was unfortunate enough to get pulled over by a police officer coming out of Polo Lakes in Wellington, Florida. Knowing your rights is crucial in this situation.

He felt scared and worried, and on top of that, the officer asked him to get out of the car. Rodriguez remembers the officer saying, “Is this your vehicle sir? I’m going to need you to step outside with your hands up and sit on the curb besides my patrol car.” Rodriguez did what the officer told him, unaware of his rights as the officer called for back up. “After everything he just let me go like nothing happened,” he said.

Those who are inexperienced with getting pulled over may engender a certain level of panic and result into mistakes that could be avoided. If one is properly informed on the subject, they may know what steps to take in this situation.

According to the State of Florida, if you get pulled over you have the right to remain silent. You have a right to an attorney. You have the right to not consent to searches, and you have the right to ask questions.

You should ask the officer “why did you pull me over?” first, before he can ask you any questions. You don’t need to answer all of officer’s questions if they do pull you over.

 

If you are stopped for speeding, for example, and they ask you “do you know how fast you were going?” or “do you know what the speed limit is?” you don’t have to answer. You could make matters worse for yourself if you say “I think I was going 50” if the speed limit is 30. You would be giving up your Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination.

Unless an officer asks you to roll your window down all the way, you only have to roll it down enough to hand him your information and speak to him. If the officer is trying to make the traffic stop longer than it needs to be, keep asking the officer, “am I free to go now?”

When you get pulled over, remember to keep your hands on the wheel, so the officer knows they aren’t in any danger of you pulling out a weapon. When the officer, asks you for your license and registration, that is when you move. But before you move, let the officer know you are moving to get your license and registration.

The officer can’t search your car on suspicion alone; you have to give them permission. If an officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, don’t leave your door wide open. This lets the officer have full range to get inside your car and look. Leaving your door open gives up your Fourth Amendment right, and allows the officer to search your vehicle at free will. Make sure you take your keys out with you and lock your vehicle, if you have to get out.

They are legally allowed to examine your car if they smell an odor like marijuana because it is probable cause for a search. If the officer smells marijuana you just smoked or they smell the drugs in the car, the officer must call the dogs over to do a full examination of the vehicle for drugs.

“I have used the dogs probably more than 100 times during my 13 years forvehicle searches. The dog is the best asset to the police”, Detective Robert McGinley of the West Palm Beach Police Department, stated. If the officer doesn’t have probable cause or asks you if they can search your car, you can say that you don’t consent to any searches. You can’t always prevent yourself from getting pulled over, but knowing your rights can surely help keep you out of unnecessary trouble.