As a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia, people ask me questions about whether they can refuse a police search during a traffic stop. Whether guilty or not, it is difficult not to feel as if you are being scrutinized by law enforcement during a traffic stop. The officer might ask to search your car during the traffic stop and this can be intimidating for those who may not fully understand their rights. In this article, I explain your rights during a traffic stop in Pennsylvania.

Your Rights During a Traffic Stop in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, you have the right to refuse to consent to the search of your person or car. You also have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions put forward by officers. Decline to make a statement; silence is golden. If you are not being formally arrested, you have the right to leave. If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. Call an attorney as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Your Responsibilities During a Police Search in Philadelphia

While you have rights during a traffic stop, you also have responsibilities. For example, you are responsible for not interfering with a police investigation. You cannot lie when asked a direct question not can you provide false identification. You also have the responsibility to remain calm during an encounter with the police encounter. Acting aggressively or disrespectfully to law enforcement will only compound your troubles.

You Have Been Pulled Over By Police, Now What?

Because you are a licensed driver, you are aware that there is paperwork that you are required to provide. The officer will ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. However, you have no obligation to allow officers to look inside your car and you’re allowed to refuse consent for a search.

One exception to the search rule for vehicles is that if the police have reason to suspect your vehicle contains evidence of a crime, then the car can be searched even without your consent. If that’s the case, remain calm and stay out of the officer’s way. The last thing you want is to add an obstruction of justice charge to whatever the police may find.

What to Do if You’re at Home

It can be most alarming to have a police officer show up unannounced at your doorstep. Though you might be taken aback, realize that you do not have to let the officer inside unless he or she has a warrant. Though you have the right to remain silent, if you choose to speak to the police, simply step outside and close the door behind you, not leaving any room for the officers to scan the interior of your house.

If the officer does have a warrant you are allowed to ask to see it. The warrant authorizes officers to enter the residence at the address listed on the document, but should specify exactly where and what the officers are allowed to search for. Remember that even if the officers have a warrant, your right to remain silent continues and you can choose not to answer any questions.

What to Do if You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe officers have somehow infringed on your rights the first thing to understand is that it does no good to fight the matter on the streets. Instead, remain calm and try and remember as many details of the incident as possible. The moment you are free to contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, do so. Repeat the details of your encounter to your lawyer and discuss your possible options for either filing a formal complaint or challenging any criminal charges you may be facing in court.

If you’ve been arrested in Philadelphia it’s crucial that you hire a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate such complicated legal matters. Experience matters when handling serious criminal issues and you don’t want to take any chances when your freedom is at stake. Brian Fishman understands how scary the criminal justice system can be and is here to guide you through the process.