Your Rights And Responsibilities During A Traffic Stop In NJ

At a traffic stop in NJ, the respective rights and responsibilities of a police officer and a civilian driver are now clearer than ever with the new “Safe Stop” initiative from the Attorney General’s office. All New Jersey police officers now receive training on traffic laws, civilian constitutional rights, and proportional and legal use of force. Moreover, the Attorney General Directive 2016-5 mandates that every police officer must undergo annual training on de-escalation, mental health, cultural awareness, and implicit bias. 

A law enforcement official must have reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct a legitimate vehicle stop. At the same time, a motorist must pull over when given the signal to stop even if he believes that there is no legal basis to do so. Oftentimes, whether or not the officer acted within his authority may be subjective and varies with legal interpretation. 

Your Legal Obligations during a Traffic Stop

Following New Jersey’s implied consent law, every driver is obligated to provide your license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration upon request. You must then identify yourself to the officer who signaled for the traffic stop. If requested, you must also exit the vehicle, commit to a pat down by the officer if there is reason to believe that you are armed and dangerous, and agree to take a breath test if you are suspected of drinking and driving. 

Your Legal Rights during a Traffic Stop 

A traffic stop should never be discriminatory. The stop is illegal if the police pull you over, question you, request that you exit your car or arrest you based on your skin color, race, nationality, age, gender or sexual orientation. You have legal recourse in such a situation.

At the same time, a traffic stop must not be requested with the motive to harass. The stop is illegal and constitutes as undue harassment if the police single your vehicle or you out for unjustifiable or unconstitutional reasons. While a stop-and-search by the traffic police is lawful under just circumstances, the police have no right to arbitrarily harass civilian drivers.

During a traffic stop, drivers have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer inessential questions. You only need to provide basic identifying information like your name, contact number and address. After which, you are not required to answer any invasive questions pertaining to what you were doing or where you were heading before you were stopped. 

As a driver, you also have the right to withhold consent to a vehicular search during a traffic stop. Without your verifiable consent, the police are only authorized to conduct a search if they have reasonable articulable suspicion of your involvement in an illegal activity. 

If you are arrested at a traffic stop, you have the immediate right to legal representation. This is regardless of whether the arresting officer has read your rights or not. Additionally, to protect yourself, you can request for the presence of a supervisor or use a mobile phone to auditorily or visually record a stop as long as it does not interfere with any of the police’s activities. 

Protect Your Legal Rights with Carcich O’Shea

Should you decide to file a complaint to the internal affairs department at the police station of the officer’s assigned municipality, it is your legal prerogative to utilize the footage from the dashboard-mounted camera in every marked police car in New Jersey and the body cameras of officers – these cameras must be activated during traffic stops. If you feel that your rights have been violated during a traffic stop, our skilled and experienced attorneys at Carcich O’Shea can help. Contact us today!

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