You are out driving in Tampa. A police officer pulls you over. Maybe he tells you that you were speeding. This is a pretty routine traffic stop, but even a routine incident can become something more serious if certain caution isn’t exercised.
Many drug cases in Florida begin with a so-called simple traffic stop. The reasons for that might vary. One reason, however, could be because not enough people understand and exercise the rights that are important to protecting their freedoms.
What can you do to try to best protect yourself from aggressive, sometimes sneaky police tactics? When you are in the midst of a traffic stop, the stress and confusion of the incident can leave you feeling helpless or distracted.
Know the following tips now to try to keep a level head in case you are stopped and presented with confusing requests in the future:
- Just because an officer requests to search you or your vehicle does not mean he or she has the right to do so. Of course, he is going to ask you if he can do a search.
- Remember these words: "Officer, I do not consent to any searches." You should say this clearly, more than once if needed, and try to do so calmly. You might even go so far as to say, "Officer, I am not resisting, but I do not consent to any searches." Searches can include a search of your person and/or your vehicle in the case of a traffic stop.
Once your consent is given to an officer, he has the right to search you and/or your vehicle. Even if there is no probable cause to immediately do so, if you say it is okay for the searches to proceed, anything authorities find that could connect you to a drug charge could be used against you in a drug case.
There are times when consent is not needed, but that generally means police have already made a lawful arrest or have probable cause to search property. A suspicious smell from or visible drug paraphernalia in your vehicle can also extinguish an officer’s need to get your consent to search.
The legal issues of search and seizure and probable cause in drug cases are so important, but they are equally confusing for most people who are not used to fighting the system routinely. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer provides you the necessary support to challenge those key aspects of your case and protect your rights.