While a police officer’s job is to serve and protect, to keep people safe within the designated laws, it can be intimidating to be stopped by the police. Such a figure’s presence, during what might be an already stressful situation, can make one further lose focus and forget about one’s rights altogether. The nuances within laws are designed to balance an individual’s rights with keeping the law intact and serviceable. Here are some things to know about your rights if you get stopped by the police:
⇢ A uniformed constable may stop you for any time, for suspicion of drinking and driving. If you don’t have your license or registration with you, you legally have 7 days to show the documents. One caveat here is that if you’re suspected of driving without insurance, the police officer has the option to seize your vehicle.
⇢ A police officer can arrest you if you refuse to take a breathaliser test, unless there are physical or mental situations truly preventing your ability to give a breath test. If you pass the test, you can go. If you fail, you might be arrested.
⇢ If you’re suspected of drug use, you may need to go with the police officer to the station for further tests.
⇢ While you do have to take requested test, you retain rights over your own narrative. That is, you do not have to answer any of the police officer’s questions. That old adage, “you have the right to remain silent,” applies here. Hold onto your story so that a solicitor can listen and aid you from what actually happened in your perspective. If you give your story to the police officer (especially from within a less than clear and/or intimidated state of mind), it may be misinterpreted or used against you later.
⇢ There are ways in which your knowledge of the law can be useful to you if you’re stopped by the police. If you, in turn, are suspicious of why the police officer pulled over and have reason to believe it may have been because of bias, you can cite the Human Rights Act (maybe best not to do so aloud, but, keeping it in mind as part of your narrative to your solicitor). A police officer’s job is to uphold the law, not to single out particular individuals over others who may not be following that law. Cultural prejudices, whether conscious or subconscious, can unwittingly sneak into who’s pulled over and who isn’t. If you feel you’ve been “singled-out” in some way, make note of it to yourself.
If you’re pulled over and going through the motions of what’s asked of you by an officer, remember that there will be someone out there who can be more on your side than the officer may be at that particular moment. Keep calm, refrain from knee-jerk reactions, and wait for your chance to tell your side of the story to a solicitor.