5 Things You Should Always Do During an Illinois Traffic Stop
If a law enforcement officer suspects that a motorist is breaking the law, he or she will use lights and sirens to indicate that the driver must pull over for a traffic stop. If the police officer suspects the driver of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, he or she may ask the driver to participate in a field sobriety test or take a breathalyzer test. If the officer suspects that weapons, illegal drugs, or other contraband are in the vehicle, he or she may conduct a search of the vehicle. There are certain things that a driver should never do during a traffic stop as well as steps that drivers should always take. It is important to remember that you have certain rights during traffic stops, and doing the following may help you avoid criminal charges:
Pull Over Immediately
Being pulled over by a police officer is often the last thing you want to deal with. However, traffic stops are not optional. The Illinois Vehicle Code states that if a driver receives a “visual or audible signal” by a police officer to stop his or her vehicle and fails to do so, he or she may be charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.
Stay Calm and Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
So far, 27 U.S. law enforcement personnel have died in the line of duty this year alone. In 2019, 146 officers lost their lives while serving, including six officers in Illinois. When a police officer pulls you over, the officer does not know if you might represent a threat to him or her. Remaining peaceful and placing your hands where the officer can see them shows the officer that you do not plan to harm him or her.
Do Not Consent to a Search
You have a Constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure of your property. This means that a police officer can only search your vehicle if he or she has a good reason for doing so. However, an officer may request to search your vehicle at any time. You should know that you have the right to politely decline a police search of your vehicle. The law enforcement officer may conduct the search anyway, but if he or she does not have probable cause for doing so, any evidence uncovered in the search may be inadmissible in court.
Do Not Admit Guilt By Answering Questions
The U.S. Constitution also gives you the right to avoid self-incrimination. This means that you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself. Although staying completely silent during a police stop may look suspicious, you do not have to answer superfluous questions. For example, the police officer may say something like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Do you know how fast you were going?” The best response to these types of questions is a simple “No.”
If You Are Arrested, Ask For a Lawyer and Remain Silent
If you are placed under arrest, do not answer police questions until you have a chance to talk to your lawyer. State that you are asserting your Fifth Amendment rights, that you will remain silent, and that you would like to talk to an attorney. Keeping silent ensures that you will not say something that will later be used against you.
Contact a St. Charles Traffic Violations Lawyer
If you were the subject of an illegal vehicle search by police officers, if your rights were violated during a traffic stop, or if you are facing criminal charges of any kind, contact the Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa. Our experienced and dedicated Illinois criminal defense attorneys are equipped to handle cases related to traffic violations, drug possession, DUI, weapons charges, and more. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call our office today at 630-232-1780.