Getting pulled over by the police can be stressful. They scrutinize the driver and determine if there is illegal activity and check for a prior history. It can seem like an eternity for those who get nervous or embarrassed. However, the state’s Supreme Court states that the length of a stop should be temporary and not last any longer than necessary to investigate the initial reason for the stop.
A traffic stop for a broken taillight should not take more than a few minutes. Nor can the officer walk up to the car and ask if there are illegal drugs or firearms in the car. As many know firsthand, this is not always the case.
An officer can expand his or her investigation if the officer smells marijuana in the car or determined that the driver’s actions may indicate that they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These new suspicions can extend the length of the stop as the officer further investigates the evolving situation.
What can the driver do
If the officer seems to expand the scope of their investigation and its length, it is essential to remember that the driver still has rights. With this in mind, they can help themselves by doing the following:
- Provide license and proof of insurance.
- Be polite and follow their instructions, but it is best not to answer their questions.
- If they seem intent on expanding the scope of their investigation, let them do so without comment – it may later turn out that this was unlawful expansion.
- Drivers or passengers do not have to consent to a search of themselves or their belongings, but they still may be pat-down or searched against their will.
Contact an attorney immediately
It is best to speak to a criminal defense attorney who can question the premise of the stop and validity of the expanded investigation. These legal professionals understand the laws involved in traffic stops, and if the officer violated them. They can then either seek to have the charges dismissed or work with the courts to ensure that the charges fit the driver’s actions.