What You Have to Tell the Police When They Pull You Over for a Traffic Stop
First, remember that the U.S. Constitution protects you from random traffic stops. The police must have "probable cause" to believe you've violated a traffic regulation or "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity before pulling you over because a traffic stop is a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment.
The traffic stop itself is not an "arrest," however, and the police are not required to give you Miranda warnings prior to asking you questions in a traffic stop. Miranda warnings include telling you that you have the right to remain silent, that any statements you make may be used against you in a criminal proceeding, that you have a right to a lawyer and that if you can't afford a lawyer one will be appointed for you. (The police have to give Miranda warnings only when they've taken a person into "custody.")
But you have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in traffic stop.
So what information should you provide? If pulled over, you should to provide the following:
- Your Driver's License
- Vehicle Registration
It does not violate your Constitutional rights for the police to require you to identify yourself.
Further, the police can ask you questions that are reasonably related to the purpose of the traffic stop, such as questions about your travel plans (where you came from and where you're going) and the reason why the officer pulled you over. Under the Fifth Amendment, however, you are not required to answer if your response would incriminate you. (But refusing to answer can make them suspicious.) The police can also run your license and registration to check that they're valid and current.
After you've provided your identification and vehicle registration, if you think your answer might be incriminating, you should politely say, "I'd rather not answer that question or I'd like to speak with an attorney before I respond."
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