At some point, just about everyone is going to get pulled over by the police. Since every situation is different, it is important that you know your rights as a driver, and the best way to handle a traffic stop. As a disclaimer, we are not attorneys, but have thoroughly researched the law in Arizona to give you the most accurate information and what to expect when stopped by the police.
- You have the right to safety. When you see an officer driving behind you with the car lights flashing, you are supposed to pull over right away. But you are not required to pull over on a busy highway or a dark, winding road if you think it looks unsafe. If that is the case, turn on your hazard lights, and start to slow down so the officer knows that you are trying to comply. Proceed a short distance until you can stop safely.
- Officers need probable cause to pull you over. For a legal traffic stop, police need to demonstrate probable cause to take a closer look at you and your vehicle. The officer should tell you the reason you are being pulled over right away. If you are unsure about why you have been pulled over, politely ask for clarification.
- An officer does have the right in Arizona to ask you and your passengers to step out of the vehicle. A failure to comply could result in additional charges.
- You have the right to make a video recording of a traffic stop if for any reason you feel uncomfortable or that your rights might be infringed upon, as long as you are on public property.
- An officer cannot search your vehicle without probable cause. If the officer has not identified a probable cause, you may assert that you do not consent to a search. The smell of marijuana coming from the car would count as a probable cause.
- Since the state of Arizona does not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, be sure to let an officer know right away if you have a weapon in your vehicle. The officer can take possession of your firearm but will return it once the traffic stop is complete.
- You can refuse to take a roadside sobriety test. If an officer asks you to blow into a breathalyzer during a traffic stop, you have the right to refuse. However, be aware that Arizona has a statute called “implied consent”, which means that your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 6 months if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. In addition, if the officer has probable cause, you can be taken to the police station or a nearby hospital to receive urine or blood tests.
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