No driver likes to see red flashing lights in the rearview mirror. But for those who have illegal drugs in the vehicle or are driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are most likely thinking about what might happen now that police have pulled them over. What are their rights during a traffic stop?
First, police officers must have a probable cause to pull a vehicle over unless they are conducting a DUI checkpoint. Probable cause can include anything from pulling drivers over for speeding to stopping a vehicle that has a taillight out. It also can include police pulling a driver over for driving erratically, where officers suspect the driver is driving drunk or high.
At any time, a police officer can request a driver to take a breathalyzer test. In Illinois, the law states all drivers have given implied consent for a breathalyzer test or urine test, so refusing to cooperate will lead to a driver’s license suspension and a DUI arrest.
The Fourth Amendment and a vehicle search
Officers only have the right to search a driver’s vehicle if they have good reason to believe that you are involved in a crime or if you consent to a search. If police pulled you over after driving recklessly or swerving, that counts as a reason to believe you are driving while under the influence.
You can politely refuse an officer’s request for a vehicle search. However, if the officer has probable cause to search it—for example seeing drugs in the vehicle or if you are acting as if you are high on drugs—he or she can search anything in the vehicle, including the trunk, a locked glove box or any open containers. The officer also has a right to search if a vehicle if you are arrested for DUI or because of a conflict arising from your traffic stop.
Traffic stop safety
The best policy in any traffic stop is to stay calm and pull over safely. Then roll your window down and greet the officer politely. Then comply with his or her directions. You don’t want to unnecessarily escalate the situation.
You should tell the officer if you need to get your driver’s license out of your glove box or your back pocket. If you make any unannounced sudden movements, an officer might consider those threatening.
If you follow these guidelines, and aren’t driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and don’t have any contraband in sight, you more than likely will avoid a vehicle search and only receive a warning or minor traffic citation. If you do end up facing criminal charges after a traffic stop, consult an experienced defense attorney. An attorney can help you prepare your best defense to reduce or dismiss the charges.