Knowing your rights when the police pull you over

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2017 | Know Your Rights, Police Stops |

The last thing you want to see and hear when you’re driving down any Alberta highway is flashing red lights in your rearview mirror and the sound of a siren blaring. Unfortunately, this typically means that it’s time to pull over and roll down your window for the police officer who will be coming your way. It’s also a time to stay calm and composed.

One thing you will want to avoid should you ever face this nerve-wracking situation is automatically apologizing, especially if you don’t know why the police have stopped you to begin with. This can appear like an admission of guilt and might be used against you later in court.

What about answering questions?

Many people think they have to answer every question a police officer poses to them after they are pulled over. However, this is incorrect, as there is no legal obligation for drivers to do so. If there is nothing you are trying to prevent an officer from knowing and you want the interaction to be more pleasant, you should consider answering the questions. Politeness goes a long way, even if the officer is less than friendly with you.

Any extremes in behaviour may not be to your benefit. Being overly combative or overly accommodating — as in offering any favours — might not be in your best interests. Police have the right to look into your vehicle through the windows to see what is there in plain sight even though you may not want them to.

Anything you transport in your vehicle that you want to keep private should be put in the trunk or some other concealed area like the glove box. If an officer pulls you over for something considered routine, such as speeding, he or she should have no reason to look in these areas. You don’t have to agree to a search unless a verifiable reason is given.

Roadside stops to check for impaired drivers

Police often set up stops to check if drivers have been drinking alcohol. If they have reasonable suspicion a driver has been drinking — like slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or erratic driving — they can demand a roadside breath screening. If you fail that test, the officers could demand that you go with them to the police station for an Intoxilyzer test.

If a police officer asks you to take a roadside Breathalyzer test, you must agree to do so under the law. If you refuse, you will face charges for refusing, and if a court finds you guilty of this charge, you will likely face the same ramifications as though you received a conviction for impaired driving. If the officer arrests you, your actions during the arrest may be used as evidence during your trial. So fighting with the officer could potentially strengthen the Crown’s case against you.

Where to turn for help and support

If you’re facing any sort of charges, you are probably worried about the potential consequences of a conviction, and you probably have many questions about what your rights are during this trying time. You have the right to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer to help determine the best defense strategy for your particular circumstances, which can significantly increase your chances of obtaining the best outcome possible.