Saturday’s Question

*Sigh* It’s Sunday…stupid calendar…at any rate, here’s Saturday’s Question:

If I get pulled over what are my rights as a driver? Do I have to let a cop search my car? What about admitting vs not admitting the violation?

Excellent question, Kevin. Thanks…

This is a bit of a two part question. First, do you have to let a cop search your car. It’s not as easy as all that. We may ask for your consent. As a matter of course, I always ask for consent. It’s easier to articulate in a report that the subject gave consent to search. You have every right to say, “No”; however, be aware that we may already have developed PC (probable cause) to search without it. For example, I smell marijuana or I see something in plain sight (drugs, weapons, burg tools, etc) that now gives me the right to pull you out and search your car.

I’ve asked for consent before and gotten the negative response. At that point, I’ve already established my PC and I say, “Okay, I was just being polite. Get out of the car.” So, no. Technically, you do not have to let a cop search your car. You’d be amazed how many people let us, though. They could have a body in the trunk and an ounce of crank in their pocket and they’ll still say, “Sure, Officer. Go right on ahead.” Job security, brother.

The second part…admitting vs. not admitting the violation. Honestly, I could not care less either way. I’ve already witnessed the violation. I know you did it. You know you did it. Just take responsibility already. I always make my notes on my copy of the citation contemporaneously with the stop. That way, my recollection is fresh and if/when I testify to it six months later, I can remember what happened. That means I document whatever statements you make (that are pertinent to the violation…your accusatory “You’re an asshole” statement is not germane). If you say nothing, I write nothing and that just makes my testimony shorter. So long as I prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt to the judge, which is more often than not the case, your statements don’t really matter.

Do yourself a favor, though. If you make a statement during the stop to the effect of “Yeah, I did it”, don’t bother going to court. Save us both some time. Or go on my day off….I could use the cash.

I am much more likely to give a break to someone who admits what they did wrong. It means they realize what they did and will most likely go a bit of a while before they do it again.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

11 thoughts on “Saturday’s Question

  1. Agreed MC. Someone who admits the violation has a better chance (notice I said CHANCE) of getting a warning or a cited for a lesser violation from me. If you lie, or are totally full of shit, you get the extra large pizza with all the toppings!

    If you can make me laugh, you probably won't get a ticket at all…

  2. Just a clarification. You only need reasonable suspicion to search. If you have probable cause you arrest!

  3. True. Reasonable suspicion/probable cause…always did those mixed up. Always figured if I can articulate PC, reasonable suspicion is moot.

  4. The United States Supreme Court just issued an opinion on April 21 narrowing the so-called Belton rule dealing with traffic stops. The case is Arizona v. Gant. The ruling moves the goal posts somewhat for certain stops so knowing its limitations might be helpful.

  5. I've always taken the honesty route when it comes to getting pulled over. Yep I did it, otherwise you wouldn't have pulled me over. LOL

  6. PA state is totally right about Gant. Remember, the only way you can search that vehicle is if you tow it. Inventory searches are still OK, but your department better have a well-articulated, consistent policy, and it better be consistent with state law. Belton was always a stretch, and Gant fixed what is probably a constitutional error. Bottom line, get home safe, and let the DA wrestle with the defense about whether it was legal. I'd rather lose a case than lose a cop.

  7. This is just MY opinion on driver's rights as I see them:
    1) You have the right to listen to every order I give you.
    2) You have the right NOT to make any sudden moves lest I shoot you.
    3) You have the right to shut that damn cell phone off once I have stopped you.
    4) You CAN request a fresh pen if I'm issuing more than one cite, wouldn't want you running out of ink half way through a signature.
    5) You CAN TRY to sweet talk your way out of the cite, it won't work, but you CAN TRY!!
    6) And you have the right to know that if you show me an FOP supporter, or any other LEO support group ID, sticker, or bumper sticker I WON'T drop the speed down to 9 over(instead of your real speed) so you don't get a demerit.

  8. ""Bottom line, get home safe, and let the DA wrestle with the defense about whether it was legal. I'd rather lose a case than lose a cop.""


  9. North State, it's my understanding that Gant has no bearing on the plain view doctrine. MotorCop mentioned smelling marijuana or seeing drugs or weapons. That fits within plain view (plus allowed scent/hearing) does it not? So I don't think Gant would affect his specific example.

  10. ""Bottom line, get home safe, and let the DA wrestle with the defense about whether it was legal. I'd rather lose a case than lose a cop.""

    Wisest line I've ever heard from a lawyer. North State DA, there may soon be an opening on the Supreme Court…… interested?


  11. I've just discovered your blog (was recommended by Cindy Smith's "Education for the Driving Masses") and am going through all the entries.

    I love your blog!

    I must admit I've been pulled over twice — the first time I was followed by the officer at night for over 5 kilometres before he pulled me over. When he asked "do you know how fast you were going" I said "yes". I mean, duh, it was on cruise control! He let me off with a warning. I always wondered why — he had me dead to rights.

    Thanks for the insight!

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