CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -(WDEF) A recent WDEF-TV survey revealed the fact that many people are not fully aware of their legal rights if they were to be pulled over by law enforcement.
Just image traveling down the road with no worries then all of a sudden look into the rear view mirror and seeing flashing lights behind you. If you know you were speeding then you know there's a chance you're gonna get a ticket. If you know you've had too much to drink and you've been swerving your car in and out of lanes then you know there is a good chance the officer is going to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. But there's other traffic infractions that might gain the attention of an officer. So as a motorist, you need to first know what you're being pulled over for.
"Do you have a tail light out? Do you have your bright lights coming in the opposite direction? There's just numerous reasons why police have the right to pull you over," said defense attorney Jerry Summers.
Officers will generally ask to see your license, proof of insurance and registration. If you were clocked over the speed limit, they might ask why you were speeding to see if there was a legitimate reason for breaking speed restrictions.
If your not the only person in the vehicle, The officer might order everyone to get out. A supreme court ruling allows officers to require everyone in the vehicle to get out while the the officer investigates the traffic stop. That measure is in place to ensure the safety of the officer. In some cases the officer will ask passengers questions that are related to the traffic stop as part of his or her investigation.WDEF recently aired a news story about a possible case of racial profiling
. The story involved a Bradley County Sheriff's deputy who was caught on video interrogating a passenger about a misdemeanor arrest that occurred several years ago. According to attorney's WDEF talked to, that line of questioning had nothing to do with the reason why the vehicle was pulled over.
"He's a passenger in the vehicle and state law required you to keep ID on you at all times," said the deputy after he was asked by the driver as to why he needed to see her son's ID. The Deputy appeared to not realize he was being video recorded by both the driver and the passenger who both had iPhones.
According to Summers and attorney Robin Flores who's a former veteran police officer, the statement by the deputy is false information. Tennessee state law does not require passengers to have ID's on them at all time.
"This gets into the subject of racial profiling if you're Hispanic or someone of foreign descent," said Summers
Summers later said in that case, an officer might ask to see ID to make sure someone who appears and sound foreign is in the country legally. In the Bradley County incident, the passenger in this car is obviously an African American.
Later in the video, the deputy is seen interrogating the passenger about why he's on probation and asking specific questions regarding his misdemeanor arrest from five years ago after running his ID. It's unrelated to the traffic stop and by law, the passenger is not required to answer that question.
Legal experts say it's important to be nice to the officer even if it appears the officer is not nice to you because a routine traffic stop can get ugly. If the situation gets ugly, a motorist and even his or her passenger can end up in jail facing disorderly charges.
Legal experts also encourage drivers and passengers to record traffic stops with their cell phones because nine times out of 10, the officer is doing the same with a dash cam and a cordless microphone.