Traffic stops: Know your rights

What are your rights during a traffic stop? (VIDEO)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Driving is a main source of transportation for millions of people, but what many of us may not know is our rights when police pull us over.

"It's not so much about your rights but a question of what should you do versus what do you have to do," said criminal defense attorney Paul Laufman. "It's actually a lot more authority vested to police officers than people think. You start from a position of freedom. We all have the right to go about our business unmolested by law enforcement unless or something happens."

Police can't arrest you until they feel you have committed a traffic violation. But from there, the power is in their hands.

"Officers do have the right to have some control over you," Laufman said. "They have the right to ask you to step out of the car. They have the right to order you to step back to the cruiser."

As uncomfortable as that situation sounds, it is vital for drivers to try to stay calm, obey commands and hope police use the best discretion.

"Be polite. Keep your hands on the steering wheel," Laufman advised. "Keep them in view. Don't reach for anything."

If you disagree with the officer, it is best to keep the argument in the court room and off the streets.

"Every traffic stop could potentially be a frightening problem to an officer and I think they have to wisely approach them as such," Laufman said.

A "Terry Stop" is when an officer may stop vehicles for questions if the deputy reasonably suspects that the driver in the vehicle has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. The officer is not required to have probable cause to arrest the individual at the time of contact. However, the officer may have reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity.

Evidence obtained through a Terry Stop of a vehicle is acceptable as long as it was the result of a reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred. The term "terry stop" comes from a U.S. Supreme Court case that originated in Cleveland.

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