What Are My Rights During a Traffic Stop in Louisiana?
You’re driving to work and it took you longer to get out the door than you anticipated. You misplaced your keys again and are now running late. As soon as you find your keys, in the fridge of all places, you rush out and see you wasted 10 minutes.
No one will notice if you drive a little faster to get to work this morning, right? Wrong. Red and blue lights flash in your rearview–you are getting pulled over.
No one wants to get pulled over, yet it happens. In fact, an average of 50,000 people are pulled over in the U.S. per day.
You should know the answers to the question “What are my rights during a traffic stop?”
Keep reading this guide for the steps to take if you are pulled over in Louisiana.
What Are My Rights During A Traffic Stop?
We know you do not plan to be pulled over by a police officer on your way to work, or any other time, but it is still good to understand what your rights are and the proper steps to take during a traffic stop in Louisiana.
First Things First
Police may stop you to alert you to a problem with your car, such as a burned-out taillight or other problem you may not be aware of.
Once you are pulled over in a safe location, roll your window down so you can talk to the officer and hand over your documents. You may have your license, proof of insurance, and registration ready as the officer will likely ask for them.
If it is nighttime, turn on the interior lights of your car.
Do not exit your vehicle or walk up to the officer. This may be seen as a threat. The best practice is to remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt on and with your hands on your lap or otherwise in the open.
It is also a good idea to shut off your car and put the keys on your dashboard or another place an officer can see them. These are small actions but show that you are willing to listen and obey and have no intention of harming the officer or driving away.
Talking to the Police Officer
After you have pulled over in a safe location, rolled down your window, shut down your car, and gathered your documents be prepared for the questions the police officer may ask you. During a traffic stop in the state of Louisiana, law enforcement has the right to:
- Ask for your legal documentation (driver’s license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration)
- Search your car (the officer has probable cause, believes you could be hiding a weapon, drugs, or drug paraphernalia, with a valid search warrant, or if you have given consent)
- Conduct a breathalyzer test if they are reasonable suspicious you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or might be suspect for a DWI in Louisiana
- Ask you to step out of your vehicle (do not get out of your car unless asked)
Police officers may ask other things of you if they have pulled you over for specific reasons (suspicions you are driving under the influence) but the questions must be lawful. You may want to consult with a Baton Rouge criminal lawyer too.
A police officer cannot:
- Refuse to show their name, ID, or badge number
- Search your vehicle without consent, a valid search warrant, reasonable suspicion, and/or probable cause
- Arrest you for refusing to consent to a search
Your Rights During a Traffic Stop
Now that you know a little more about the rights police officers do and do not have during a traffic stop, let’s go over your rights. During a traffic stop, you have the right to ask these questions and say or do these things:
- If you are stopped by a police officer in plain clothes, you can ask for proper identification
- If you do not understand why you have been pulled over or the answer given to you was vague, you can ask for clarification
- If you pulled over in a dimly-lit, abandoned, or seemingly unsafe area, you can ask the police officer to move to an area with better lighting or that is more populated
- If the police officer asks you to step out of your car so they may search it, they must have probable cause. You cannot say no to a search but you can say “I do not consent to this search,” so it is known and can be used in your defense later if needed
- If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and to wait to answer any questions until you have legal representation on your side
You do not, however, have the right to:
- Refuse to show your driver’s license, proof of insurance, or registration
- Refuse to step out of your car after being asked to
- Physically stop a police officer from searching your car, even if you verbally declined consent to the search
- You may legal representation but the consequences for doing so could be worse than if you took one anyway
Overall, you want to operate under the Golden Rule. Treat the police officer how you want to be treated. This may help to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
Learn more about resisting an officer.
Navigating The Legal System
Now you know your rights as a driver in Louisiana and answers to the question “What are my rights during a traffic stop?” If you are arrested at a traffic stop remember you are entitled to legal representation. Contact the Barkemeyer Law Firm, any day, including weekend, for representation.
We will help protect your rights.