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 officer's investigation.
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 participation.
What To Do
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.