July 19, 2014

Assert Your Rights: What To Do When Stopped by Law Enforcement & How You Can Legally Refuse a Police Search

A run-in with police officers can be extremely disorienting and confusing. Whether you have been pulled over for a simple traffic violation, a broken taillight, or the officer believes there is actually probable cause, it is important to understand and assert your rights. By first understanding your rights and the actions you can take to assert your Constitutional rights, you are legally protected by the Constitution to take, self incrimination can be avoided. It is crucial to assert your constitutional rights so you do not incriminate yourself – this will protect you from potential jail time and help your case in the future. As a dedicated criminal defense attorney, I want all Los Angeles and California residents to know their rights. Keep these following rules and facts regarding police searches in mind every time you sit behind the wheel.

The Basics

Police need a legitimate warrant in order to search your person or your property. However, during a regular traffic stop, police officers simply need to have what they believe to be probable cause in order to legally justify a search of your vehicle. This means police must have some legitimate reason or facts to believe you are up to criminal activity in your vehicle, such as visible drug paraphernalia, the presence of alcohol in plain view, the smell of contraband, or an admission from yourself for having committed a crime. From the onset of a search situation with an officer, it is best to assert your rights and vocally refuse to consent to a police search. Encounters with police tend to be very confusing for the party on the other end, and the police certainly will not explain your constitutional rights. The 4th Amendment protects your right to simply say “NO” to a search- do not sit quietly and assert this right!

It is also very important to remember that simple traffic violations like those previously mentioned (speeding, broken tail-light, expired tags, etc) are not regarded as probable cause in a court of law. Therefore, if you are pulled over by police for anything that does not fall into the legal category of probable cause, it is important to know some helpful approaches to keeping the police from searching your vehicle.

This can be a frustrating and degrading experience in general, but it is crucial to never raise your voice, become angry, or use profanity when dealing with an officer. If you become hostile or seem like a threat to the safety of the officer, they will then be able to detain you. Always regard the officer with a level of respect.

Your Right to Refuse & Remain Silent

It is important to invoke your right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment, as anything said in a police encounter can and will be used against you in court. Even if an officer asks you if you knew how fast you had been driving, you can legally protect yourself by refusing admittance or knowledge of having broken any laws. The best rule of thumb is to never admit you have broken a law so that you do not incriminate yourself in “criminal” behavior, and simply respond with “No Officer”. Under the 6th Amendment, you must say “I want to see my lawyer” even if you do not really have a lawyer in order to make a cop cease questioning you.

Never physically resist an officer, even if they detain and frisk you. This is a felony, and a good criminal defense lawyer can help prove if there was unlawful use of force on the end of the police. Just by touching an officer, you will increase your problems far beyond an unreasonable search. It is not worth testing out an officer’s patience with foul language. Always say, “Officer, I am not resisting you, but I do not consent to this search”. It is your legal right to refuse a search regardless of what the officer may say under the 4th Amendment. Do not fall for tricks if they try to accuse you of hiding things or make their request to search you sound like a command- you can always refuse a search. This is not an admission of guilt, and it is not your job to determine whether they have probable cause. If the officer does search you even after you have refused consent to you or your vehicle, a criminal defense attorney has the ability to file the motion in court to have any “evidence” collected from the unconsented search to be thrown out in court. Since the officer will have violated your right under the 4th Amendment to refuse a search, the case will then be dismissed.

Ultimately, it is vital to keep calm and collected when handling an officer during a search situation. They will try to trick you, treat you as a criminal, or intimidate you into providing your consent for the search of your car, but it is key to understand you have the right to refuse.

Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles| Manzuri Law

Meital Manzuri is a dedicated federal and state criminal defense attorney and defends those accused of any crime, felony or misdemeanor. Manzuri Law recently had a victory in a complex attempted murder case and also several drug possession for sales cases. A large portion of our practice focuses on fighting law enforcement violations of the constitution, marijuana law, medical marijuana business counseling, DUI defense and drug possession and sales. With substantial experience handling search and seizure issues, Meital Manzuri has consistently succeeded in the suppression of evidence unlawfully obtained by police officers.

Since 2008, Meital Manzuri has evolved into one of Los Angeles’ premier medical marijuana attorneys, defending the rights of patients, distributors, and cultivators.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.