WHAT TO DO WHEN THE POLICE PULL YOU OVER

You are driving down the highway and all of a sudden the police pull you over.  You feel like you have been obeying all of the traffic laws.  At the very least, you think you have been driving more or less like the drivers around you.  You see the bright red and blue LED police lights behind you.  You adrenaline rushes.  You are nervous, and maybe scared. The police have pulled you over.  What do you do? You use your rights.  Be kind. Do not consent to a search. Be silent.

Be Kind, Be Calm.

First and foremost, you want to remain calm when the police pull you over.  We have seen too many times recently where drivers were killed, passengers were killed, stranded motorists were killed, pedestrians were killed, and even kids were killed.  Most of these folks were calm.

Never Waive Your Rights.

Even though you remain calm, you should never waive your rights.  Waiving your rights isn’t going to help you one bit.  You gain nothing by waiving your rights.  Sure, there are the odd occasions where a cool cop will dump out your beer or toss your weed down a gutter and make you drive over your pipe, but that rarely happens.

What Are Your Rights?

So what are your rights when you get pulled over by the police?  You have many rights when you get pulled over by the police.  These rights are protected by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  Article I Section 9 of the Texas Constitution gives you even stronger rights.  The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure gives you even stronger rights in many cases.  If you don’t use them you lose them.

Exercise Your Rights.

You have the right to remain silent.  You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests.  You have the right to refuse consent to search.  In other words, when the police officer asks if he can search your car, you can and should say no!  You can ask if you are under arrest.  You can ask if you are detained.  You can ask why you are detained or under arrest.  You can ask if you are free to leave.

Don’t Give The Police Permission To Search Your Car.

Most importantly, you have the right to tell the police they cannot search your car.  If the police are asking you to search your car, that most likely means that the police do not have probably cause to search your car.  Probable cause is the level of proof needed to pull you over, search your car, search you, write a ticket, arrest you, charge you with a crime, and indict you. Probable cause can be defined as reasonable grounds based on facts and circumstances, more than a hunch, to believe that a particular person committed or is in the course of committing a particular crime.  So while an officer may have probable cause to pull you over for speeding, he does not have probable cause to search your car for marijuana.  Now if the officer claims to smell the odor of burnt marijuana, he has probable cause to search you car — but it isn’t over there.  I have on many occasions shown to courts that police were lying in their offense report when they said they smelt the odor of burnt marijuana.

Why Do You Exercise Your Rights?

You may be saying, “Cory, have you really won cases where the cops claimed to smell burnt marijuana?”  Well, yes.  In many of those cases the police did actually find marijuana, which brings me to our next issue.  Why do you exercise your constitutional rights when you have been pulled over by the police?

So you can win.  So you can win a motion to suppress. So you can win a not guilty verdict at trial.  So you can win a dismissal.  So you can win an in-trial dismissal.  So you can win a great plea deal.  So you can win.

Winning Motions to Suppress

As an aggressive criminal defense trial lawyer, I will always investigate your case to determine if there is a chance we can file and win a motion to suppress.  At the date of publishing this blog post, I have never lost a motion to suppress. I am sure that will change someday, but for now, three years into my practice, that is an excellent winning record.  It is an excelling winning record for any attorney.  Why do I win?  Because the police mess up, the police lie, my clients exercise their rights, I have the benefit of body camera and dash camera recordings.  The list could go on and on.  But your chances of winning decrease when you don’t use your rights, especially when you give consent to search you car. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Before I finish, here is a list of some of the motions to suppress I have won or arguments I made for dismissals when my clients were pulled over or detained in their cars:

  • Harris County criminal defense client arrested for laying down in his parked car in a public park parking lot and charged with Possession of Marijuana.  I successfully argued my client was illegally detained because the officer did not have probable cause and none of the probable cause or search warrant exceptions applied.
  • Harris County criminal defense client arrested for sitting in her car in public park parking lot and charged with Possession of Marijuana.  I successfully argued my client was illegally detained and there were ‘insufficient affirmative links’ connecting my client to the marijuana in the car and trunk.
  • Houston County criminal defense client arrested for Tampering with a Government Document.  I successfully argued that the officer illegally detained my client and did not have probable cause to search his car.
  • Fort Bend County criminal defense client was pulled over for not using his turn signal.  Client refused consent to search his car.  The officer then arrested him for Class C misdemeanor so he could use an inventory search as a ‘ruse’ to conduct a probable cause search.
  • Montgomery County criminal defense client pulled over for not passing in the left hand lane and arrested for Possession of Marijuana and Unlawful Carrying a Weapon after he refused consent to search.  I successfully argued that the officer should have allowed my client to leave after completing traffic investigation and client refused consent to search his car, and that by prolonging the investigation to wait for a drug dog that he violated my client’s 4th Amendment rights.
  • Colorado County criminal defense client detained after minor wreck on the highway.   I successfully argued that officer putting his head through driver side window was an illegal search.
  • Hardin County criminal defense client was in hotel hallway then the police claimed he smelled like marijuana and got a master key from the hotel management and then searched his room.  Charged with Possession of Marijuana and Felon in Possession of a Firearm.   I successfully argued that the police conducted an illegal warrantless search of his hotel room.

Remember, if you get pulled over by the police while driving, be kind but don’t do the police any favors.  Exercise your rights to remain silent and refuse consent to search your vehicle. If you do these two things, you will greatly increase the chances that we can win you case on legal grounds with a motion to suppress.  Give us a call for a free consultation.

Sincerely,

Cory Roth

Criminal Defense Attorney

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