When Stopped by the Police

Maddi Gilman

by Darius Whitehurst and Critt Johnson

“No one will touch me until my mother is here. That’s understood? I am seventeen years old,” were the words told to a police officer by 17 year old Brandon Wyne videotaped during a traffic stop in April of 2015 in Virginia Beach.

According to Andy Fox of WAVY TV 10 the officer smelled marijuana and had probable cause to search the car, but their search was stopped by Mr. Wyne because of his resistance to exit the car. Mr. Wyne assumed that because of his age the police could not touch him, therefore he didn’t think they could make him exit the car. Actually, the officer could use necessary force to remove him from the car to further investigate whether or not he was a minor.

In this instance, the misunderstanding of rights was hurtful. It was this incident that inspired Mr. Fox to write the article, “Do you know your rights when police stop you?”  (http://wavy.com/2015/04/23/do-you-know-what-your-rights-are-when-police-stop-you/)

Knowing your rights when confronted by police can help not escalate situations and avoid further conflict. Keeping calm and not being fidgety will help not raise any suspicion with the officer.

Madeline Gilman, a senior at Bishop Sullivan High School, was pulled over a few weeks ago for driving over the speed limit. She was not ticketed and let off with only a warning after being fully cooperative with the police officer and doing everything he asked her to do.

“The officer was not being aggressive and was actually being really sweet, and he seemed that he didn’t want to ruin my life and it made me be more cooperative,” said Ms. Gilman.

So what should you do when stopped by the police? Glad you asked.

When being stopped by a policemen you do not have to consent for a search of your car or any personal bags that are in the car. Also, you do have the right to record the incident because it is a form of speech guaranteed as a result of the ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court in the case of Christopher Sharp vs. Baltimore Police Department, according to Mr. Fox’s article.

It is not necessary for you to answer any questions asked by the police but you must state loudly and clearly, “I am going to remain silent!”

You should always keep your license and registration in a nearby place so that you can keep your hands in sight at all times. The sun visor or in a nearby compartment.

Remember that the officer’s conduct is based off of yours, so always be polite and respectful to the officer.

To sum it all up there are five things that you need to remember when being stopped by a policeman according to FindLaw.com. (http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2013/07/civil-rights-during-a-traffic-stop-5-reminders.html)

  1. You Do Not Have to Consent to a Search.
  • without a warrant or probable cause, you do not have to consent to that search
  1. You Have the Right to Film/Record a Traffic Stop.
  • you have the First Amendment right to film an officer during a traffic stop
  1. Your Detention Must Be Reasonable in Length.
  • Pulling a vehicle over and detaining a vehicle on reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a traffic offense is entirely legal, but an officer cannot detain you indefinitely. There is no magic number for how long is too long to be held for a traffic stop; often cops will detain drivers while running records checks on their license plates and IDs. But if it has been about 30 minutes since you were stopped, feel free to start your recording and ask the officer why you’re still being detained.
  1. You Can Decline to Answer Police Questions. (The right to remain silent)
  • Whether you are detained on foot or in a car, you have the right to decline to answer police questions — even the classic interrogatory, “Do you know why I pulled you over today?”
  1. You Can Request and Record Officer Information.
  • If you have any worries or complaints that your civil rights were violated during a traffic stop, you will need to know which officers were responsible for allegedly violating your rights.

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