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Traffic Stops: Consent to Search

Jun 8, 2008
If you've been pulled over as a result of a traffic violation, you should know how to act appropriately to make the process go as smoothly as possible. For example, you should be polite and non-confrontational to the officer, and avoid suspicious behavior or movements. It's courteous to turn off your vehicle and keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer approaches, so that they know you aren't a threat. Also, you should never apologize, as this could be considered an admission of guilt and will ruin your chances of being able to get out of the ticket. Most people know this information, but what happens if the officer wants to search your vehicle?

Normally, you would think that if you didn't have anything to hide you should simply consent to the search so that you can be on your way. However, the only reason they need to ask for your consent is because they don't have enough evidence to search without it. You don't have to let them search your vehicle or personal belongings if you don't feel it is necessary. However, if you choose not to consent, you still need to state this politely. According to the Fourth Amendment, you have the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. If you really have nothing to hide and would rather just get it over with, feel free to consent, but know that if anything is found it could lead to more trouble than a simple ticket.

Many people think that denying the officer permission to search your car immediately insinuates guilt on your part. This is not true. The officer might presume that you're hiding something, but if he has no reason to be suspicious then he shouldn't need to search your belongings. Always remember that you don't have to answer any questions that the officer asks without your lawyer present if you don't want to. Simply ask politely that you have a lawyer present for questioning, and the officer will allow you to contact your lawyer. However, this usually means you will be detained, and taken to the police station for questioning, so be prepared to ride in the back of the police car if you choose this option. Finally, if the officer attempts to detain you, don't physically resist him, as this may result in further charges being filed.

So let's review:

1. be polite and non-confrontational
2. don't apologize or admit guilt
3. turn off your vehicle and keep your seatbelt on
4. don't consent to search if you don't want to
5. feel free to consent if you don't mind
6. you can request your lawyer, although this might require you to go to the station
7. don't physically resist arrest or detainment

Keep these things in mind next time you're involved in a traffic stop, and the issue should be quickly resolved without compromising your rights.
About the Author
Rob Skubiak has appeared in courtrooms all over Florida defending his Florida traffic ticket clients . Orlando Speeding Traffic Ticket attorneys.
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