When you’re sharing a roadway with a Louisiana police officer, you may wonder whether he or she will wind up pulling you over in a traffic stop. Most people become immediately conscious of their traveling speed in such circumstances, perhaps looking at their speedometer to check exactly how fast they’re going. It’s not uncommon to feel nervous if you glance in your rear-view mirror and see a police patrol car traveling behind you.

If flashing lights signal you to pull over, it can be challenging to find a safe and swift way to comply in the midst of traffic on a busy highway. Such situations can be mere inconveniences that last no more than a few moments or can quickly escalate into a serious legal problem, especially if the officer searches your person or your vehicle and arrests you on suspicion of a crime. It’s important to understand search and seizure laws ahead of time, should the arresting officer violate your rights. 

Did you consent? 

You are not obligated to consent to a vehicle search if an officer asks if he or she can take a look inside your car. In fact, you can make it very clear that you do not give consent to the search. If the officer initiated the stop because of a minor infraction, such as claiming that you were traveling a few miles over the posted speed limit or perhaps were driving with a tail-light that wasn’t functioning, there may not be valid reason for him or her to search your car.  

Difference between a frisk and a search 

If the officer asks you to step out of your car, you can assume he or she suspects you of a crime, likely impaired driving. The officer might pat you down, otherwise known as a frisk. This action does not necessarily violate your personal rights, especially if the patrol officer claims to have had reason to check if you were armed. However, if the officer does more than pat the outside of your clothing, such as reaches into or manipulates your pockets, the law considers it a search. 

Plain view doctrines 

The bottom line is that a police officer may not indiscriminately search your person or your car during a traffic stop. If, however, the officer says there was evidence of a crime in plain view, then you may have been subjected to a legal search and seizure. Lines of legitimacy blur if, for instance, the officer says there was a weapon in plain sight on the floor of your car but winds up arresting you on drug charges after seizing something from inside your wallet, unrelated to the alleged firearm. 

Be proactive 

The Fourth Amendment of the United States protects you from unlawful searches and seizures. Law enforcement agents do not have free rein to do and say whatever they want during a traffic stop. If you wind up facing criminal charges and believe the arresting officer violated your personal rights, you can challenge any evidence obtained through the search as inadmissible in court.