Driving is a privilege, not a right. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have rights when it comes to traffic stops in Wisconsin. It’s important to know your rights and understand what you can do to protect yourself during a traffic stop. In this blog post, we’re going to empower you with knowledge about your legal rights and give you practical tips on how to handle traffic stops calmly.
What to Expect During a Traffic Stop
- The officer will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You should have these items ready to hand over to the officer.
- The officer may ask you to step out of the car. You should do as the officer asks.
- The officer may pat you down for weapons. You should not resist this search.
- The officer may ask you questions about what happened leading up to the stop. You have the right to remain silent and can decline to answer questions. However, you must give your name and address when asked.
- If the officer asks to search your car, you have the right to say no. The officer may then search your car anyway if they have probable cause or a warrant.
When Police Can Search Your Vehicle
In Wisconsin, police officers can search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime inside. Probable cause generally exists if the officer observes something suspicious or if the officer has been told by a reliable source that there is evidence of a crime inside the vehicle. Additionally, if you are arrested, the police can search your vehicle incident to arrest without needing to establish probable cause first.
If the police ask to search your vehicle, you have the right to refuse. However, if the police believe they have probable cause and insist on searching your vehicle, you should not physically resist. Instead, calmly and politely assert your rights by telling the officer that you do not consent to the search and asking why they believe they have probable cause to search your vehicle. If the police conduct a search without your consent and without probable cause, any evidence they find may be suppressed in court.
Interacting with Police Officers During a Traffic Stop
If you are stopped by a police officer in Wisconsin for a traffic violation, there are certain things you should do and say, and other things you should avoid doing and saying, in order to protect your rights.
First, it is important to remain calm and polite. You should never argue with or disrespect a police officer. Second, you should always show the officer your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked. You should not reach for these documents until the officer asks for them, as this could be interpreted as reaching for a weapon.
If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you should do so. Once you are out of the vehicle, the officer may frisk you for weapons. You should not resist this frisking, as it could escalate the situation.
If the officer asks you questions about what happened or why you were stopped, you have the right to remain silent. You can politely decline to answer any questions without incriminating yourself. However, if the officer asks for your name or identification, you must provide this information.
If the officer issues you a citation or places you under arrest, again, remain calm and polite. Do not resist arrest or try to run away.
Knowing your rights is an important part of being a responsible driver in Wisconsin. If you have any questions about your rights during a traffic stop or arrest in Wisconsin, an expert criminal defense attorney can help you!