Do you know what to do after a police officer stops you for a traffic violation or questions you after a crash? Knowing your rights if you’re pulled over by police in Birmingham can help protect you and stay out of legal trouble.
Consider the rights and responsibilities of drivers as outlined here:
What Responsibilities Do I Have?
As a driver in Alabama, you have certain responsibilities when a police cruiser pulls behind you and turns on the lights. First, you must stop. If you fail to stop, you will likely face much more severe consequences than you would have if you stopped.
In addition, you also must show your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. That’s it. You are not legally obligated to say or do anything else without additional information or warrants from the police officer.
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What Are My Rights?
Most of the time, police officers stop drivers because of minor traffic violations or other relatively minor issues such as a brake light out. In some cases, though, they may pull you over because they believe you are driving drunk, using drugs, or involved in another crime. You may also face questions from officers if you were involved in a Jefferson County crash.
Knowing what you can do and what is not advisable in these situations may help you avoid more serious interactions with law enforcement.
You Can Drive Until You Feel Safe
If you are not comfortable pulling over where you are when a police officer turns on the lights, you can drive a short distance until you feel safe. Look for a location where you can get out of the traffic lanes and into a well-lit parking lot or shoulder.
No set distance is allowable, but if you notify the officer of what you are doing and stop at the first opportunity, you should be fine. Slowing down and turning on your flashers is the best way to indicate your intentions.
You Can Refuse to Answer
You have a constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to refuse to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers. While we generally support being polite during stops, this does not mean you have to answer questions that could incriminate yourself or cause other issues.
The only exceptions to this rule are that you must provide your name and the required documents.
You Can Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle
If the police officer asks to search your vehicle, you do not have to agree. They need a search warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion to force a search.
This means they can search your car if it matches a vehicle used in a crime and they believe you may be the perpetrator, if they see something illegal inside, or they believe they might be in danger because they spot a weapon.
You Can Refuse Sobriety Tests or a Breathalyzer
You do not have to agree to the roadside sobriety tests if an officer asks you to do so. Many will follow this with a demand you take a Breathalyzer or another type of chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content.
Under Ala. Code § 32-5-192, all driver’s license holders in Alabama have already consented to a chemical test to determine if they are drunk or otherwise intoxicated. However, this does not mean everyone allows it to happen. You can refuse this type of test, but you will face the consequences. This primarily consists of a suspension of your driver’s license. The police can also get a court order allowing this testing.
You Can Hire an Attorney to Represent You
If the police arrest you or you believe any of your rights were violated during a stop, you have a right to have an attorney represent you. This is especially important if you face charges and police searched your vehicle without cause or made other possible mistakes in your case.
You can hire a lawyer who will be by your side if the police interrogate you. They can be there with you during your arraignment to develop a strong defense and at trial, if necessary.
Speak to a Birmingham Car Accident Lawyer If You Were in a Crash
These tips are good to remember following a car accident, too. This is especially true if the other driver caused the crash and you are just trying to get a police report for your insurance claim. If you were hurt in a Birmingham crash, our team is here to help.
The Morris Bart law firm provides complimentary consultations with a personal injury lawyer for victims in Birmingham and elsewhere in Alabama. Reach out to us today to learn more.
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