At some point in life, almost every driver is going to be stopped by the police. The overwhelming majority of those stops are for genuinely minor reasons: reasons like failing to use your turn signal, a burnt-out brake light, or an expired license plate. However, if the police have any reason to suspect that you might be guilty of something more than a traffic infraction, that simple traffic stop can rapidly escalate into something much more serious. If you are suspected of a crime under these circumstances, it’s imperative to know and exercise your legal rights. And if you’re arrested for any reason after being pulled over by the police, contact an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

When Can the Police Search You?

When are the police legally allowed to search your car? Police searches of automobiles are always a controversial legal issue. Driving is regulated by law and takes place in public, so a car has less legal protection from police searches than a home does. Constitutionally and legally, precisely where is the line? In most cases, police officers really don’t need a warrant to search your vehicle. If you are charged with a crime in or near New York City after a search of your car, truck, or van, get help immediately and call an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney. 

Vehicle searches by the police are strictly governed. If the police stop you and believe that you are armed, you can be asked to step from the vehicle and you can be searched. The courts allow police officers to ensure their own safety. If illegal drugs or other contraband are discovered during this kind of a pat-down, the items can be confiscated, you can be charged, and your rights have not been violated.

Your vehicle itself can be searched if the police believe that they are in danger. If they have “reasonable cause” to believe that your vehicle contains evidence relating to a crime, they may also search your vehicle without a warrant. A “hunch” isn’t enough, but your answers to an officer’s questions could (plausibly) provide probable cause, so it’s wise to exercise your right to remain silent. Probable cause can also come from 911 calls, informants, or police observations of the vehicle. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court now allows the police to stop anyone solely on the basis of an anonymous, unconfirmed tip.

The police also have the right to search impounded vehicles.

If you are arrested and charged with a crime on the basis of a traffic stop and vehicle search, one possible defense is that the “reasonable cause” was not at all reasonable. You’ll need an attorney who routinely handles criminal cases involving traffic stops.

If you are asked to consent to a search of your vehicle, politely refuse. Always be as friendly and cooperative as possible with the police while vigilantly guarding and exercising your rights. If you give your permission, the results of the search will be admissible in court, even if there’s no initial probable cause for a search. Of course, if you are stopped for a routine traffic offense and an officer sees evidence (such as firearms, drugs, or open alcohol containers) in plain sight, you and your car can be legally, thoroughly searched on the spot.

If you are arrested on the basis of a vehicle search and seizure, discuss your case with a good criminal defense lawyer and get sound legal advice. A good defense attorney can provide an aggressive defense and fight vigorously for justice on your behalf. If you are arrested on Long Island or in New York City after a vehicle search and seizure, retain the counsel of an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

The criminal justice system isn’t what you see on television. Not all cops are virtuous, not all lawyers are glamorous, and certainly, most suspects are neither evil nor insane. In fact, if you’ve been arrested for a crime on Long Island or in New York City, you’re probably a very normal and regular person who has been either falsely accused, or else you just made a bad decision. Either way, the police can arrest you in New York if they have probable cause to believe that you are committing or have recently committed a crime, and they can also take you into custody with a properly executed arrest warrant. After you have been arrested, the police must read your Miranda rights if they seek to interrogate you. Your Miranda rights are:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you if you desire.

If you choose to answer any questions – something most defense attorneys strongly advise against – you still may stop the questioning at any time. Be courteous and polite, but simply say “I choose to exercise my right to remain silent” or “I prefer not to answer questions unless my attorney is present.”

If you are merely being interrogated and have not been arrested, the police are not obligated to read your Miranda rights, but what you say can still be used, so you should still exercise your right to remain silent. If you’re charged with any misdemeanor or felony in the Long Island or New York City area, obtain the legal counsel you need and contact an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Hire A Long Island Criminal Defense Attorney

Obviously, every case is different. When you’re pulled over by the police, be cooperative and friendly, but politely insist on your right to remain silent if an officer begins asking questions. If the police ask for permission to search your vehicle, politely decline. If you’re charged with a crime on Long Island or in New York City on the basis of evidence discovered during a traffic stop, discuss your case, your rights, and your options as quickly as possible with an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer.