Stopped by the police for a traffic violation? In many cases, traffic stops are little more than a pretext for officers to execute a search of your vehicle. Maybe they suspect you of transporting drugs or think that you might be running guns. Or, maybe they’re just on a “fishing” expedition to see what turns up that might be illegal.
Whatever the circumstances, you should never assume that innocence will keep you out of jail. Even if you have absolutely no worries about what might be found in your car, it’s smarter to exercise your rights against unlawful searches and seizures.
Here are some tips:
Remember that Washington’s laws regarding the search of a vehicle by the police are very strict. The state’s Supreme Court declared most vehicle searches unconstitutional without a warrant, even if the driver is under arrest.
- Consenting to a search of your vehicle negates the need for a warrant, so don’t consent. This means you should calmly state something like, “Sorry, officer, I don’t consent to a search,” in response to questions like, “Do you mind if I look around your car?” or “Do you mind popping the trunk for me?”
- One of the best ways to end a needless encounter with the police is to ask, “Am I free to go?” If the officer states that you are, thank them and leave — while making certain that you obey traffic laws.
- If you are not free to leave, remain silent. The police are not required to give you a “Miranda” warning unless you are both in custody and being interrogated, but that won’t stop them from using everything you volunteer against you. Silence is your right, so use it.
If you’ve been arrested for drug trafficking or some other issue relative to a traffic stop, let a defense attorney handle your case from the very start.