Mark M. Cheser 35 Years of Criminal Defense Experience
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Understanding your rights during a traffic stop

As traffic stops gone wrong have been in the news more and more frequently, it is important for those in New Jersey to understand the rights they have when interacting with law enforcement officers. As reports, regardless of the conditions a driver is going through, including speeding to the hospital, if an officer signals to pull over the driver must comply. Even if the driver has a legitimate reason for his or her actions, the officer does not know this at the time, and refusing to pull over could leave the driver vulnerable to charges. 

In New Jersey an officer does not need probable cause to pull a vehicle over, they only need "reasonable suspicion," which can include talking on a cell phone while driving or failing to use turn signals. Once pulled over, the driver does have to give identification, and not doing so could result in charges. The officer has the right to ask the driver to exit his or her vehicle, as well. Once a person has provided his or her identification and exited the vehicle if asked, there is not anything else that they must do during a traffic stop. For those suspected of driving under the influence, a field sobriety test may be conducted and a driver may be detained.

As the American Civil Liberties Union explains, it is the responsibility of the driver to be polite and to remain calm. If the driver does not want to answer questions, he or she should inform the officer that they are using their right to remain silent. Unless the driver consents, officers do not have the right to search the vehicle for a normal traffic stop.


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