A routine traffic stop happens to everyone at one time or another. On the other hand, you may face serious consequences if you face a traffic stop with drugs in your vehicle. Knowing how to proceed could provide valuable help to your situation, especially if it results in a criminal charge. Here are a few expert tips on how to best handle a traffic stop if you have drugs or paraphernalia in your vehicle.
One of the most important things you can do during any traffic stop is to keep calm and think rationally. Don’t make any sudden movements that would compel an officer to think you’re concealing illegal activity or reaching for a weapon. Follow general best practices for navigating a traffic stop: turn on your vehicle’s inside lights, turn off your ignition, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not get documents from your glove compartment until an officer requests them – don’t give him the idea that you’re concealing drugs or reaching for a weapon.
When talking to an officer, be both polite and rational. Do nothing that would make you stand out in an officer’s mind – it’s best to be as average (and as forgettable) as possible. Getting angry will not help your case, as it will only make an officer more suspicious.
Successfully navigating a traffic stop requires knowing your rights, especially as they pertain to the Fourth Amendment. This constitutional right protects you from unlawful search and seizure of your person or property. Vehicle searches are often giving more leeway than homes with regard to the Fourth Amendment – in other words, the officer does not require a warrant to search your vehicle. He or she does, however, require probable cause.
In a traffic stop, there are three basic ways an officer can search your vehicle:
In general, consent to the search if you have nothing to hide. However, if you have drugs in your vehicle, it’s best to withhold your consent to search so you have the option of contesting the legality of the search in court later.
If your vehicle has been towed or impounded for any reason – such as following a DUI – the police have the right to conduct a thorough search of your car, including locked compartments and areas. During this time, however, the police must thoroughly document everything in the vehicle, which can lead to a lot of paperwork. A missed step or incomplete report could indicate shoddy police work and provide evidence for your defense, should it become necessary.
If you face criminal charges after a traffic stop, one of the most important things you can do is contact a criminal defense attorney for help. Your civil rights provide you access to a public defendant, but these individuals carry heavy caseloads and often do not have the time or resources to dedicate to a solid defense. Work with a criminal defense attorney who will defend your rights and do everything in their power to seek lesser charges or move for a dismissal of charges altogether.