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.