Traffic Stops & the LawThe case of the Texas woman, Sandra Bland, who died recently in a Texas jail, leaves many questions to be answered. Bland was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, and in video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety, we see how quickly things escalated leading to Bland’s arrest.

It reminds us that we need to know what is and is not legally permissible for you and the police officer to do if you are pulled over on a routine stop. There is the law, and then there is how things sometimes play out in reality. This is why it is especially important to keep a few things in mind in order to keep the situation from becoming argumentative or dangerous.

  • You have the right to remain silent. Whether you are temporarily detained or arrested – you have the right to not answer any questions. If asked, however, you do have to provide your license and registration, your name and address, and your proof of insurance.
  • You don’t have to consent to a search of yourself or your car. A police officer needs probable cause in order to search your car. Unless they have that, or have placed you under arrest, they may not arbitrarily search your clothing or your car.
  • You have the right to ask for an attorney. If you aren’t detained, you wouldn’t need to call an attorney. But if you’re being held by police, even temporarily, you have the right to an attorney.
  • Be civil and polite during the encounter. Don’t try to argue your way out of a situation, even if you believe that your rights have been violated; you won’t win, and you’ll likely make things worse.


The best thing you can do during a traffic stop, even if you believe you’re in the right, is to pay close attention. Get the officer’s name and badge number and make notes of everything that happened during the encounter. You can proceed with a complaint later, and all of this information will be helpful to your case.

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