Your Rights and Obligations During A Traffic Stop by Police in Arizona
Motor Vehicle stops are the most common encounter you'll have with police officers on the road. Being familiar with with your rights and obligations when contacted by police in your vehicle will help you remain calm and avoid potential criminal charges.
If you are stopped for a violation of the traffic laws in Arizona, you should remain seated in the with your hands on the steering wheel. You should not make any sudden movements and should speak politely to the officer. A police officer has the right to ask you to exit your vehicle at any time during a traffic stop, whether you have been placed under arrest or not. You must produce the following paperwork:
- Your driver's license
- Proof of insurance
- Your vehicle's registration
These materials are used by officers to determine if your drivers license is valid, whether the vehicle is properly registered and insured and whether there are any outstanding warrants for your arrest.
Answering Questions Posed by Police During a Traffic Stop
Although you are technically not "in custody" during a traffic stop and therefore, not entitled to receive Miranda warnings, you still have the right to remain silent. You must give the officer your true name and identification. However, if you plan to remain silent, you should inform the officer that you are exercising that right. If you choose to answer questions asked by the officer, you should be brief. Don't volunteer any extra information when talking to the officer and try to limit your responses to "yes" and "no."
Searches by Police During a Traffic Stop
A police officer has the right to pat you down or frisk you during a traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of a weapon. This limited search is referred to as a "Terry Search." Police can also frisk any passengers in your car if they suspect involvement in criminal activity. Of course, officers any seize any illegal items that they uncover while frisking you or your passengers.
A police officer can also request to search your car if they believe it contains evidence of a crime or illegal activity. If you agree to this request, they can conduct their search. This is called a "consent search." You are well within your rights to refuse a vehicle search during a traffic stop. You cannot be punished for refusing a search or for maintaining your right to remain silent. Additionally, police cannot threaten or coerce you to gain consent to search the car. A police officer can search your vehicle without consent if they have probable cause or a search warrant. The reason police can search without a warrant, based on probable cause is that a vehicle is considered inherently mobile and evidence can be easily lost or destroyed. They can also perform an inventory search of your vehicle if you are arrested.
Any illegal objects in plain view such as drugs, marijuana, weapons or alcohol can also be seized by police. In fact, the police officer is allowed to open your car door and reach into your vehicle to retrieve the illegal object.
Your behavior will play a major role in determining whether you receive a citation, are searched or even arrested. Arguing with a police officer is most common reason people receive a summons. Additionally, your actions can also suggest you may be hiding something and could lead to a vehicle search. Staring at a specific location in your car, fidgeting, and sitting awkwardly can all arouse suspicion.
If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona, contact my office at (480) 833-8613 for a free and immediate consultation. I have represented thousands of individuals during the last twenty years who have been charged with offenses ranging from DUI and drug offenses to aggravated assault and homicide. I have also conducted a number of jury trials in the city, justice and superior courts throughout Maricopa County.
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