Whether it's for allegedly speeding, a burned-out taillight or at a drunk driving checkpoint, most every veteran North Carolina motorist has been pulled over by police on at least one occasion. Since these instances don't happen all the time, it can be difficult to know how to respond to them. This is why it's important to know what your rights are in these situations.
If a police officer turns on their lights behind you, then you should immediately start signaling and moving over to a safe place along the roadway. You should resist the urge to reach for your driver's license, registration and insurance until the police officer instructs you to do so.
It's important to keep in mind that if the police officer notices you are moving about, then they may sense that you're trying to access or hide a weapon, alcohol or drugs. This could put your safety in danger and also motivate them to search your car.
When they approach your car, you shouldn't admit to anything. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
If an officer wants to search your vehicle, they're generally required to ask for your consent. You don't have to allow them to do so. There's no such thing as implied consent if you remain silent. Once you allow them to perform a search, they can look into every nook and cranny of your vehicle.
A police officer may search your car under the reasonable suspicion standard if they think that you're hiding something illegal or dangerous in it. They may even ask you to open a locked trunk or glove box so that they can see inside of it.
If the situation warrants it, then an officer can place you in the back seat of their car while they search your vehicle. If your car gets impounded, then the police can search every portion of your vehicle as well.
You may ultimately be able to challenge a search once your case goes to trial if the officers moved forward in searching your vehicle without your consent. An attorney can advise you of how to handle an unlawful traffic stop case here in Statesville.