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Chicago IL criminal defense attorneyRoutine traffic stops for minor violations, like driving with a faulty tail light, failing to properly signal a turn, or exceeding the posted speed limit, are common occurrences, and in most cases they result in a ticket and fine, or even just a warning. However, sometimes what starts as a routine traffic stop can result in much more serious criminal charges, including for driving under the influence (DUI) or illegal possession of drugs, weapons, or stolen property. If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer, it is important that you understand your rights.

Common Misconceptions About Traffic Stops

Many people believe that they are required to answer an officer’s every question and consent to their every request during a traffic stop. A person’s natural instinct may be to cooperate, and they may even hope that the officer will let them off with just a warning because they were so polite. The reality, however, is that anything you say to the police officer could become evidence used against you later in court. In addition, your statements could give the officer probable cause to arrest you for a more serious offense, or to search your vehicle.

You Cannot Be Forced to Incriminate Yourself

You should never lie to a police officer, of course, and you are required to provide certain information, such as that which is on your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance. This information generally includes things like your name, address, age, and date of birth. However, you are under no obligation to provide the officer with any additional information. If an officer asks you a question that could be incriminating, such as, “Have you been drinking tonight?” you have the right to politely respond with something to the effect of, “I prefer not to answer any questions without the advice of an attorney.”

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pulled over by a cop, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorneys Many drivers experience being pulled over at some point in their life, typically for violations like speeding or running a stop sign. These common encounters with officers are brief and usually end with a minor consequence like a warning or ticket. However most of us will never experience a situation like Sandra Bland—a woman who made headlines this past summer. Bland was pulled over as part of a routine traffic stop that quickly escalated, leading to her arrest. Bland later died in jail.

Unfortunate situations like Bland’s case do not happen often, but they provide an important reminder for all of us. As a U.S. citizen and motorist, you have a responsibility to understand your rights and be able to protect yourself in any unfortunate situations involving police. If you are pulled over by a police officer, consider the following tips to protect your rights.

You Do Not Have to Agree to a Search

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