What Are My Rights When I’m Pulled Over in Florida?
Bill Allen | April 7, 2021 | Florida Law
A police officer is required to have a valid reason for pulling you over and detaining you. Otherwise, the traffic stop is unlawful. However, a traffic stop is not the time to argue this point with the police officer.
Since almost every driver is likely to be stopped at least once by the police during their lifetime, it is important to understand your legal rights during a traffic stop. It is equally important to know what to do and what not to do if you are pulled over in Florida.
Stop Your Vehicle at the First Safe Location
You must pull over and come to a complete stop when a law enforcement officer signals you to do so. If there is no safe place to pull over, slow down so that the officer knows you are searching for a place to pull off the road. At the first safe location, pull over, roll your window down, turn your vehicle off, and place your hands on the steering wheel.
Police officers will ask for your identification (driver’s license), registration, and proof of insurance. It is good to keep your registration and proof of insurance where you can quickly reach them to avoid confusion about what you are doing. You can lay them on the seat with your driver’s license so they are within reach.
Follow the Police Officer’s Instructions
When the officer approaches your window, keep your hands on the steering wheel and do not make any sudden movements. Remain in that position until the officer asks you to exit the vehicle or to provide documentation. If you need to reach for your identification or documents, tell the officer where they are located and ask for permission to retrieve them.
If you have a gun or a weapon in the vehicle, notify the officer that you have the weapon and where it is located. Do not reach for the weapon or make any sudden moves.
Everyone in the vehicle needs to follow the same instructions: hands where they can be seen and no sudden movements.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you have the right to remain silent. This right extends to a traffic stop.
You must provide your name and address to the police officer. You may then invoke your right to remain silent and refuse to answer other questions. You should politely inform the officer you invoke your right to remain silent.
With that said, invoking your right to remain silent could make the traffic stop tense. It could also escalate matters. You might want to choose to answer questions that do not incriminate you. You can politely refuse to answer a question that could incriminate you.
For example, do not answer questions such as, “Were you leaving a bar or club?” or “Have you had any alcohol to drink?.” You do not want to answer questions that can result in a DUI charge if you were involved in a DUI accident.
You Do Not Have to Consent to a Search
The officer may ask to search your vehicle or person. You do not have to consent to the search. If you do not consent, the officer should not search your vehicle or person without a warrant or probable cause.
However, do not resist a search. Clearly state that you do not consent to the search but do not resist. Resisting can escalate the situation and result in criminal charges. If the search was unlawful, an attorney can fight the results in court.
Implied Consent Laws in Florida
Florida is an implied consent state. Drivers consent to chemical or physical tests when they are pulled over for DUI by accepting the “privilege . . . of operating a motor vehicle.” In other words, if you are driving in Florida, you have consented to a physical or chemical test of blood, breath, or urine.
You may refuse to submit to the test. However, if you fail to submit to testing, your driver’s license will be suspended. You may be able to fight the driver’s license suspension with a lawyer’s help, but you may not win.
You Must Exit the Vehicle if Requested
If a police officer requests that you exit the vehicle, you must comply. A traffic stop is the same as being detained by a police officer. You cannot leave until you are allowed to do so.
The officer may believe he has probable cause for searching you or your vehicle. He may want to detain you until he has found probable cause.
Again, try to remain calm if you are pulled over. Pay close attention to the officer’s actions and comments. It is best to allow your lawyer to fight unlawful acts or citations in court. Arguing with the officer at the scene only makes matters worse.
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