It's important to know your rights when you come into contact with
a law enforcement officer. Asserting those rights can help to protect
you from potential criminal charges or the increase of existing charges.
Unfortunately, many Savannah residents are unaware of their rights to
decline interaction with law enforcement or to participate in a police
Legally, a police officer is not permitted to detain you unless he has
"reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing. For example, a police
officer may not stop a driver unless he sees that driver commit a traffic
violation or notices erratic driving, which could cause reasonable suspicion
impairment. Even when an officer has reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing,
he may only detain the suspect for the length of time necessary to confirm
or dispel his suspicions. He may ask questions, but the suspect is not
required to nor may he be compelled to answer in a way that may incriminate
himself. Lastly, officers cannot force drivers to perform field sobriety
tests. However, many detained drivers willingly answer officers' questions
and perform these tests, because they are unaware of their right to refuse
When a police officer pulls you over, it's a good rule of thumb to
assume that you have the right to refuse any request made by that officer.
When a police officer says, "Please step out of the car," many
people don't feel as though they have a choice to do otherwise. On
the contrary, it is acceptable to say, "Thank you, but I would like
to remain in my vehicle." If you are ever unsure whether a law enforcement
officer's directive is a request or a command, it is a good idea to
ask, "Officer, do I have the right to refuse?"
When an officer pulls you over, asserting your rights politely yet firmly
can help you avoid criminal charges. Even if you are ultimately arrested
and charged, asserting your rights during an officer's investigation
will give your attorneys at The Schneider Law Firm the ammunition they
need to zealously fight for your legal rights in court.