Traffic stops are a common occurrence in and around New York City. However, many people who are pulled over by the New York City Police Department do not understand their rights. Drivers are not required to incriminate themselves, which means they have the right to remain silent and do not need to consent to a search. However, in some cases, the officers may search your vehicle even without your consent.

It is essential to understand your rights before being pulled over. It also helps to understand your responsibilities so that you do not needlessly escalate the situation. If your traffic stop leads to an arrest or you believe the stop violated your rights, speak with a New York City civil rights lawyer to determine whether it was conducted properly.

Reasons the police may stop you in New York

It helps to understand that not every reason they may stop you is valid. For example, an officer may pull over a vehicle when they have reasonable cause to believe that the driver has violated the law. “Reasonable cause,” simply put, means that there is reliable evidence or information that the person in question has committed an offense.

Reasonable cause is not a high threshold to meet. Even an illegal turn onto an empty street could be enough to stop a driver, and in many situations, a minor infraction like this will give the police grounds.

Know your rights when you are pulled over

The law affords individuals in New York City certain protections to prevent police overreach. If you are stopped, remember:

  • You have the right to remain silent. This is not just your right during an arrest. Being polite and cooperative will help you during a traffic stop, but being cooperative does not mean volunteering information or even answering questions beyond basic identification. If you decide not to answer questions, politely tell the police that you choose to exercise your right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to not consent to a search of your vehicle. The police may ask if you will permit them to search the car. If this is truly a request for permission, you have the right to deny it. However, there are many cases in which the officer may search your vehicle without it.
  • You have Miranda rights if you are arrested. If the stop ends in your arrest, you have the same rights that accompany any other arrest– you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, then an attorney will be provided for you.

When the police may search your car in NYC

Police may search your vehicle without your consent or a warrant if an exception applies. Exceptions include:

  • The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime.
  • Evidence of a crime is in plain view in the vehicle.
  • The officer has reason to arrest you, in which case, the search of your vehicle is deemed a “search incident to arrest.”

If the police searched your vehicle without a warrant or consent, discuss this with your attorney. Lawyers with knowledge of traffic stops understand what to look for when it comes to determining whether the search was valid. If it was not properly conducted, your attorney might be able to have the evidence suppressed so that it cannot be used against you.

Your rights go hand-in-hand with your responsibilities

When pulled over, protect your rights by remaining calm and respectful. The officer may not have a reason to arrest you based on the stop itself, but if you become belligerent, it could give the officer reason to detain you.

Contact us today for a free consultation

If you believe your rights were violated during a traffic stop, talk to a New York City civil rights lawyer at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green. Our experienced attorneys fight for justice for clients located throughout New York, including Manhattan, Long Island, and the Bronx. Call today to schedule a free consultation.