Your Rights when stopped by the Police

Being stopped by the police can be a frightening and often life changing event. Most people are not prepared for a stop by the police and some often behave in ways that can make the situation worse. Here are a few simple suggestions to help protect your rights and keep you and your loved ones safe.

If you are stopped while driving a vehicle, then the officer should first tell you why you were stopped. If the officer does not tell you why you were stopped you should ask the officer. You have a right to ask whether you are under investigation for a crime. If the officer indicates that in fact you are under investigation for a crime, then you have the right to not answer any questions.

An officer may believe that you are under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substance. If an officer asks you to perform field sobriety test to see if you are safe to drive, then you have the right to decline doing those tests. These road side tests are entirely voluntary. These tests are designed partially to test whether someone can properly follow directions. Often times, Spanish speaking individuals are unable to perform the test even when sober because they do not fully understand the instructions being given to them in English. Your innocent mistakes may be interpreted as evidence that you are intoxicated.

When under investigation by a police officer, you should keep in mind that anything you say to the police officer possibly could be used against you later in court. If you are arrested, then a police officer must advise you of your right to remain silent and your right to and attorney.  For those who do not understand the rights in English, the police must provide the rights in a language the person being arrested understands.

If you do not speak English well enough to fully understand and to speak to the officer, then you should request and interpreter. If you do not understand what the officer is saying to you, then you should make it clear to the officer that you do not understand. Also even if you do not have your own attorney, if you request to speak with an attorney the officer will make an attempt to call an on duty, court appointed lawyer for you to speak with over the phone. Speaking with this attorney is free and you will not be charged any fee for speaking with them. You should always and immediately request to speak with an attorney if you are arrested.

In certain cases the police may request to search your vehicle. Many police searches require search warrants. But if you consent  or allow the police to search you or your property, they do not need a warrant and any evidence that they find may be used against to you in court. You have a have right to refuse to consent to a search. When you refuse a search, you should make your refusal clear. However, do not interfere physically if police continue to search without your permission. If police search without a valid warrant or your consent, then the court may later find that the evidence was obtained in an illegal search and not allow the evidence to be used against you.

It is important to remember to stay calm when stopped by a police officer. When pulled over, prepare to hand the police officer: 1) your driver’s license; 2) your registration card; and 3) your insurance card. If you do not have a license or your license is suspended, then you may be charged with driving with an invalid or suspended license. So if you are an unlicensed driver, do not drive in the first place. If your license is suspended and you are the registered owner of the vehicle, then you are especially vulnerable: the officer can check your license plate number and pull you over if he finds that you’re department of Licensing records indicate your license is suspended. Again, it is important to not drive if you do not have a valid license.

Also, the Washington State laws regarding drinking and driving and consuming marijuana and driving are very strict. If the state can prove that you’re driving ability is merely affected by alcohol or drugs, then this may be enough to convict you of driving under the influence. Your safest option is to not drive after consuming any alcohol or marijuana.

If you have been stopped by the police and think you that you may be charged with a crime, then please call the Law Offices of Raymond W. Ejarque for a free consultation at 206-621-1554 and visit our website www.seattle_duidefense.com for more information.

Mr. Ejarque has over 20 years of experience fighting for your rights. He has the experience that you need for a strong defense.

This information provides no legal advice and is no way a substitute for speaking with an attorney. Se Habla Espanol.