In New Jersey, a law enforcement official (LEO) must have reasonable suspicion in order to legitimately pull a motorist over. However, even if you don’t believe the police have the legal right to stop you, you must pull over when signaled to do so.
Your rights and obligations during a stop, as well as those of a police officer’s aren’t always as cut and dried as you might think. In some instances, whether or not the officer acted within his authority may be open to legal interpretation in the courts. With that in mind, the following information can help you keep your head, retain your civil rights and stay out of serious trouble during a New Jersey traffic stop.
LEO’s Legal Rights during a Traffic Stop
New Jersey law enforcement has the right to perform the following actions during a traffic stop.
- Ask you to produce your driver’s license, proof of insurance and current vehicle registration.
- Ask you and/or your passenger(s) to step out of your vehicle.
- Pat you down if they have a reasonable belief that you are armed and dangerous.
- A police officer may search your car subsequent to a traffic stop if he has a reasonable articulable suspicion as decided in a 2002 NJ Supreme Court ruling.
LEO’s Responsibilities during a Traffic Stop
In many cases, an officer’s behavior during a traffic stop is one of those things that is open to legal interpretation.
- For example, LEO must conduct the stop with reasonable diligence. So, what’s a reasonable time frame? Though the law identifies no amount of time, the officer cannot delay the stop for no reason.
- The officer can’t search your car or pat you down as a means of harassment. Again, he may claim that he had reasonable suspicion to do so. However, this may come down to a court ruling.
Your Legal Rights during a Traffic Stop
It’s best to be calm and courteous during a traffic stop. Know your rights, but don’t be aggressive or offensive. Simply assert them calmly and reasonably.
- You may record the traffic stop, visually, audibly or both.
- You have the right to remain silent on your citizenship or immigration status.
- You can refuse a request to search your vehicle (& person). The officer may search anyway, but you don’t have to give permission.
- If you are arrested subsequent to the traffic stop you may request a lawyer.
Your Responsibilities during a Traffic Stop
If a police vehicle signals you to pull over, comply safely. Use your turn signal and pull as completely off the road as possible. Once you have pulled, turn off your vehicle, turn on the inside light, roll your window down at least partially and place your hands in open view on the wheel. You are required to comply with the following requests.
- Produce identification when asked.
- Get out of your vehicle when asked.
- Submit to a sobriety test if asked.
- Submit to a pat down.
If you aren’t the driver, if you wish, you may ask the officer if you are free to leave to determine if you are being detained. Even if he says no, you are under no obligation to speak to him. If you have received a New Jersey traffic ticket and or believe your rights were violated during a traffic stop, call on the Reinartz Law Firm for assistance at 201-289-8614.