Do you know what typically occurs during a Virginia traffic stop? Learn your rights and what the officer can do in this Ashwell & Ashwell PLLC guide.
Virginia Traffic Stops
A traffic stop may occur if police officers have reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk. An officer may also have reasonable suspicion if they notice a driver violated a traffic law, such as speeding through a red light, swerving between lanes, or making illegal left turns.
Reasonable suspicion may also happen if an a police officer notices someone has stumbled out of a bar and turned on their vehicle.
A police officer must reasonably suspect that the driver violated Virginia traffic stop laws.
Typically, the law enforcement officer will turn on the lights or use the siren to signal the driver to pull over. The driver should activate their turn signal and pull to the side of the road as soon as possible. Turning off the engine and any audio devices can be helpful. The driver should stay in the vehicle unless directed otherwise.
There are several things that will likely happen during a traffic stop. To ensure you’re prepared, expect the following:
- A request for your driver’s license and vehicle registration;
- Questions about where you’ve been and what you’re doing;
- Sobriety tests if the officer thinks you’re impaired.
Request for Your Driver’s License and Registration
For starters, the police will ask you for your driver’s license and registration. You can pull out these forms of verification before the police approach your car. The officer may also ask for proof of insurance. The driver should keep their hands on the steering wheel or in a visible place.
The reason why the police ask for your driver’s license and registration is to verify several things:
- The driver;
- The driver’s age;
- The driver’s record;
- Who the car is registered under.
The police will review this information to be sure that you are who you say you are and various other things, for example, that you’re not driving a stolen vehicle.
In most cases, the police officer will take the driver’s license and vehicle registration and return to the police vehicle. After verifying the required information, the officer may also check to see if there are any outstanding warrants against the driver.
Questions About Where You’ve Been and What You’re Doing
The police may ask you questions before or after taking your driver’s license and registration. For instance, you may be asked where you’re driving from, where you’re driving to or if you’ve been drinking.
Under the Fifth Amendment, you aren’t required to answer everything you’re asked. Drivers are not required to answer any questions that may incriminate them. So, if the officer asks, “Do you know what you did?” or “Why were you driving over the limit?” the driver should refrain from answering.
(However, it may be in your best interest to still be courteous while politely stating that you prefer to keep the conversation focused on the traffic stop.)
Sobriety Tests If the Officer Thinks You’re Impaired
You may be asked to do sobriety tests. The police may ask you to do a field sobriety test, which is a kind of physical evaluation. Or a chemical breath test, which tests the blood alcohol content in your body. A traffic stop can quickly go bad for you if you don’t understand your legal rights. If you face a traffic violation, then you may need a defense to protect you from a criminal record.
How Can a Traffic Attorney Help?
Law enforcement officers don’t have unlimited powers during traffic stops. They may not harass the driver or search their vehicle unless they see evidence of a crime in plain sight. If the officer acted inappropriately, the driver has the right to contact the officer’s supervisor.
However, a traffic lawyer can also help. For instance, traffic stops can be stressful, and drivers may say something incriminating. If the driver receives a traffic ticket, a traffic attorney may dispute it.
Although your first instinct may be to flee, it’s crucial to stay calm, avoid sudden movements, and follow the police officer’s instructions.
If you have more questions regarding the traffic stop, reach out to traffic attorneys at Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC.