Most people don’t give a second thought to how they would react if pulled over by the police. While it is unlikely that this will happen, it is certainly conceivable. Tackling driving infractions is one of the main focuses of police departments across Georgia, which means that many people are pulled over every day.
But can the police pull you over in an arbitrary manner? And if they do, what is the most appropriate response? It is important to remember that you are protected under both state and federal law and you have the presumption of innocence.
When can law enforcement pull you over?
If you are simply going about your daily business, law enforcement is not entitled to infringe upon your liberty. You can initiate conversations with officers if you wish, although there is typically no benefit to this. If you are not being detained or under any suspicion, you are free to say nothing and get on with your day.
In some instances, police officers may have reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place. For instance, you may have been momentarily distracted by an obstacle on the road, and swerved to avoid it. This may be considered reasonable suspicion that something is afoot, and law enforcement may opt to pull you over, initiate questioning and request documentation such as ID and registration documents. While you must not lie about who you are, you are not obliged to say anything else.
If probable cause is established
Upon questioning, officers may discover something that leads them to believe a crime has been or is going to be committed. For instance, you may have an open container of alcohol somewhere in the vehicle that leads them to believe that drunk driving has taken place. This gives them probable cause to search the vehicle. However, they must also have your consent to do so. Without it, they must be able to definitively prove to the court that they had both reasonable suspicion and probable cause.
Although being stopped by the police can be stressful, it is important to try and remain calm. Recognizing your legal rights will ensure the best possible outcome in your case.