When those flashing lights appear in a rearview mirror, most people feel nervous as they anticipate the penalties associated with traffic violations. Whether you get pulled over for speeding, an expired license or a broken brake light, chances are high that your desire to limit interaction with officers may exceed your need to ensure your privacy rights are protected. Individuals facing a stressful situation may focus only on ending the issue, promoting short-term safety rather than long-term justice.
It is for this reason that many individuals comply with police orders when officers question them at a routine traffic stop. Given the publicized encounters Americans of color have had during traffic stops, a willingness to cooperate is easy to understand. Officers use this fear of arrest to their advantage and may suggest that fulfilling their requests will simplify procedures.
While it is important to be respectful when speaking with officers, there are certain requests that you should not satisfy because agreeing to these appeals will lead to long-term trouble.
If officers ask you to consent to a search to these items, you should decline:
1. The inside of your car
Without a warrant, the officer does not have permission to access your car. Whatever the officers discover in the course of their search can be taken out of context and used against you in court. If you initially allow officers to access your trunk or glove compartment and later change your mind, the officers may still search your automobile.
2. Your cellphone
In 2014, the US Supreme Court passed a ruling that banned officers from accessing an individual’s cellphone without a warrant. Referencing the amount and type of data stored on a smartphone, Chief Justice Roberts declared it necessary to extend protections to these machines “when so much of an individual’s personal life is available on their mobile device.” Considering the texts, pictures and internet searches conducted on cellphones, owners of these gadgets should try to safeguard the information they hold.
While you may be encouraged by an officer to comply with whatever order is given, it is in your best interest to refuse a search. Rather than limiting the time you spend in the presence of police, your actions will ensure that more minutes are devoted to their company. Officers know that they need a warrant to access a car and cellphone. Your interests are best served if you remember this fact as well.