Understanding Your Rights When Pulled Over by a Police Officer in Clearwater
The flashing red and blue lights of a Florida police vehicle often strike fear and anxiety in many Florida motorists. You may feel a rush of panic and confusion when you are pulled over and you may not have a proper grasp of your legal rights in this moment. Below is an overview of those essential rights you need to be aware of if you find yourself pulled over by a police officer.
The Right to Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle
In most instances, a police officer is legally required to ask for your consent prior to conducting a search of your vehicle. However, it is important to understand that even if you decline the officer’s request to conduct a search, it may be possible for the officer to proceed with a search. This is allowed if an officer has probable cause to conduct the search. Probable cause basically means that the officer has a reasonable suspicion that an illegal activity is taking place, or has taken place. For example, if an officer approaches your car and notices a dozen open beer cans in the backseat of your vehicle, this likely provides sufficient probable cause to conduct a search of your car. Another example is if the officer approaches your vehicle and smells a pungent odor (e.g., marijuana). This can provide a basis to search the vehicle to confirm whether it is holding illegal narcotics.
Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
Some people mistakenly believe that they have the “right” to refuse taking a Breathalyzer test. However, under Florida law, every individual who obtains a driver’s license has given implied consent to taking a Breathalyzer test. This does not mean you are required in every circumstance to undergo the Breathalyzer test. However, if you opt to refuse the Breathalyzer test, you may face harsh penalties including the loss of your driver’s license for a year or more. In addition, the government can use your refusal to take a Breathalyzer test as evidence to try and imply that you were guilty of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
Contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you or a family member is facing criminal charges after being pulled over by police, take action right away and speak to an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney with Roman & Roman. Our team of attorneys works tirelessly to advocate for the rights of our clients.