Being pulled over by Washington law enforcement authorities while driving is never an enjoyable experience, but sometimes it is more than a mere traffic stop. Some police officers are belligerent in the way they conduct investigations and question drivers as though everyone is a criminal suspect. There is a specific protocol officers are trained to follow, but they are also trained in skirting constitutional rights of those they question. This means that every Washington resident should understand their actual rights when being stopped and questioned.
Right to remain silent
The first and foremost right that any driver has is the right to remain silent beyond giving their name and providing personal and vehicle documentation. Officers have the power to request licenses and proof of vehicle registration and insurance. They also have the right to view the inside of a vehicle per the “plain sight” rule. However, when they cannot view the inside of a vehicle, they still often request permission to search without a warrant. Searching without permission or a warrant can establish an effective criminal defense strategy if the driver is charged with a crime.
Right to refuse a vehicle search
Very often the first common sense criminal defense tactic is stopping an overzealous officer before they can violate a suspect’s legal rights by searching a vehicle without permission or a warrant. At the point they want to search, the detained driver is a suspect because they need reasonable suspicion to search for probable cause. In addition to refusing permission to search, you can also request to speak with an attorney before any more action is taken.
Never allow a police officer to violate your basic legal rights when being stopped on the highway. There are laws that control the amount of time they can take before they let you drive away.