If you are driving in Pennsylvania at some point you will be pulled over by the police for any number of possible traffic violations, or randomly through a DUI checkpoint. If you are stopped by the police the first thing to do is pull over at the first opportunity you can at a place where it is safe to stop for you and the officer. If you are on a road where pulling over would be dangerous for yourself or the officer when they are standing on the side of the road. Indicate to the officer that you acknowledge that they want you to stop by using your four way flashers and then when it is safe to turn off your four ways and use your signal to pull over.
Once stopped leave your seat belt on. Keep this on until the officer comes to your window. Taking it off early even if you are already stopped could get you cited for not wearing one if the officer sees it off. In addition, it is best to put your four ways and shut off your vehicle (if it is not so cold out that you need the heat) and place the keys on your dash. This indicates to the officer that you are going to comply and not attempt to drive off. Once the officer asks for your license, insurance, and registration now open your glove box and provide it to them. Make sure these items are organized and you know exactly where they are so that they can be retrieved quickly. Do not get these items before the officer comes to your window. If you start reaching around your vehicle all the officer sees from behind you is that you are moving around and might be attempting to hide drugs or conceal a weapon. Just wait until you are asked for these items then the officer will be able to see what you are doing.
Once the stop is complete the officer should tell you that you are free to go or to have a nice day. Once this happens you are free to go if the officer tries to stop you or ask to search your vehicle you have no obligation to comply. The officer can only search your vehicle if they have a search warrant, you consent to the search, you are arrested and the officer performs an inventory search, if the officer has reasonable suspicion that there are drugs in the vehicle, or if the officer has reason to believe that there is something in the vehicle that is a threat to the safety of the public. With this being said an officer cannot hold you there and make you wait for a drug dog to arrive to get the reasonable suspicion needed to search your vehicle.
The Supreme Court ruled in Rodriguez v. US. that police cannot intentionally drag out the process of a traffic stop for the purpose to give them time to perform an additional drug search. “We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” “A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, becomes unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a ticket for the violation.” If your vehicle is searched you have the right to challenge the reason for the search and if the Court agrees that the search was illegal then the evidence gathered by the illegal search can be thrown out of the case.
It is extremely important to contact an experienced law firm right away if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania. If you, your son, daughter, or loved one in Pennsylvania has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation. Here at Manchester and Associates, we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For a strategy session, we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.