Pulled Over in Omaha? Know Your Rights
Every driver dreads seeing police lights in the rearview mirror and hearing that fateful siren. While we grow up learning to respect police officers, there is no stopping the anxiety that comes with being pulled over. You don’t want to say or do anything that can be misconstrued as guilty and lead to your arrest. However, you should always remember that you do have rights, and there are ways to diffuse a stressful situation.
How to Conduct Yourself
Whether you are pulled over by a Nebraska State Trooper, Douglas County Sherriff’s Deputy, or Omaha City Police Officer, the best course of action is to act calm, collected, and respectful.
First, if a police officer flashes their lights at your, take a deep breath and safely pull over to the side of the road. Make sure to turn your vehicle off, turn off your hazard lights, roll your window down, and place both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. You do not have to get out your driver’s license or registration until the officer asks for it, and it’s best to avoid reaching for your glove compartment; the officer may assume that you are retrieving a weapon. Just wait in your car until the officer walks over to speak to you.
When talking to the officer, always address them as “Officer,” “sir,” or “ma’am.” If it is the evening, they may shine a light in your eyes, but always be polite and respectful. Some officers may become aggressive and confrontational, and while it may be difficult, it is always safest to avoid antagonizing them or being disrespectful.
If asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Do you know how fast you were driving?” avoid admitting guilt. Instead, simply state that you do not know. They may also ask where you are going and where you are coming from, which you can answer freely. You should never lie or offer assumptions, nor should you freely share information you do not have to. Just try to answer honestly and as calmly as possible.
Your Rights Under the Law
While you do have a right to refuse questioning and remain silent, you must claim this right by stating, “I am exercising my right to remain silent.” However, the officer can detain you for not providing basic information, such as your name, registration, and insurance information. Your best option is to freely provide this to avoid any issues.
Officers may ask you to search your vehicle; however, this is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, which protect you from illegal searches and seizures. Officers can only search a vehicle if:
- The owner consents; or
- The officer has probable cause.
Probable cause is a broad concept that can include seeing an open container of alcohol in the backseat or white powder on the floor. If the officer does not have a good reason to search your vehicle, then they cannot legally enter it. However, the police do not need warrants to search a vehicle.
If the officer does not have probable cause to search your vehicle or arrest you, then you do have the right to leave the scene, but do not simply speed off. Instead, as politely as possible, ask if you are being charged with a crime and whether you can leave. The officer may try to detain you for further questioning, but they cannot keep you forever on the side of the road.
The officer may also ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. You can refuse this test but doing so will mean an automatic suspension of your license under Nebraska’s DUI laws. The same goes for a chemical or breathalyzer test.
What to Do if You Are Arrested
Again, remain calm. If the officer states that they are placing you under arrest, do not resist. All police officers in Nebraska must read you your Miranda Rights upon arresting you, which include the following elements:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can be used against you in a court.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
However, these rights are not automatic. You must clearly state them to put them into effect. If the police are asking you questions after you are arrested, you can state, “I am exercising my right to remain silent,” and the police can no longer ask you questions. In addition, if you wish to speak to an attorney, you should state, “I would like to speak to an attorney.” At this point, the police must grant you the opportunity to contact a lawyer or provide you with a public defender.
Getting legal representation as quickly as possible after your arrest is key to protecting your rights and future. If you or someone you love has been arrested in Omaha, contact Bottlinger Law L.L.C. immediately. Our Omaha criminal defense attorney can advocate for your best interests to the police and build a strong defense to keep you out of jail. Do not wait. Call us at (402) 505-8234 to schedule a free consultation.
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