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Police Traffic Stops in Indiana: What to Do

Police traffic stops in Indiana don’t have to be stressful. Indiana drivers who know the law can comply with a police officer’s instructions during a traffic stop without compromising their rights. Drivers can also work with Stein Law to challenge police officers’ probable cause. A driver contending with criminal charges after a traffic stop can work with a criminal defense lawyer to challenge the accusations against them.

Police traffic stops in Indiana can intimidate even the most confident and careful drivers. When faced with a police officer’s scrutiny, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

Fortunately, Indiana and federal law afford you rights when faced with an unexpected traffic stop. Even if you’re unsure what your rights are at a traffic stop, police officers must abide by rules when they pull you over. If they don’t or violate your rights, you can work with Stein Law to challenge their misconduct in court.

When are police allowed to pull you over in Indiana?

Police officers can only pull you over if they reasonably suspect you of criminal misconduct or have good reason to perform a welfare check.

What is probable cause and reasonable suspicion?

Probable cause exists when the facts or evidence surrounding a situation are such that reasonable person would believe crime has been committed. A police office must have probable cause in order to conduct a search, seize evidence or arrest you.

To initiate a traffic stop, a police officer needs to meet a slightly lower standard—reasonable suspicion. To pull you over, a police officer must reasonably suspect that you committed a traffic offence or crime.

Police officers may claim reasonable suspicion if they notice a driver violating traffic laws in Indiana. Examples of behavior that might provide an officer with probable cause can include:

  • Swerving on the road
  • Struggling to stay in your lane
  • Running red lights or driving too quickly
  • Behaving recklessly around other vehicles
  • Officers may also claim reasonable suspicion if they see a driver behaving suspiciously shortly after they receive notification about nearby criminal activity.

That said, police officers cannot claim probable cause or reasonable suspicion at the drop of a hat. Officers must refer to facts when asked to provide their justification. If an officer tries to charge you with criminal behavior without providing a sufficient reason to pull you over, you may convince a judge to throw out the case against you.

What is a welfare check?

Police are permitted to perform welfare checks on the road under two circumstances.

A police officer may pull a driver over to perform a welfare check if someone suspects the driver is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or is otherwise acting unsafely.

Indiana and federal law also allows police officers to investigate a person on the road if that officer observes unusual behavior on the part of the driver or passengers. For example, if an officer sees someone get into a car seemingly against their will, that officer can pursue the vehicle and investigate.

What should you do when getting pulled over by police in Indiana?

While the Hoosier state has laws in place designed to protect its drivers on the road, police officers have rights and duties, too. If you find yourself wondering, “What do cops ask for when you’re pulled over?” or “How should I act during a traffic stop?” there are certain guidelines to follow.

The best practices for dealing with police traffic stop are:

  • Promptly pull over, provided it is safe to do so.
  • Once you’re safely out of traffic, it’s best to turn on your hazard lights and wait for the officer to approach your vehicle.
  • Do not get out of the car.
  • Do not reach for your license or registration until an officer tells you to do so.

What should you do after you are pulled over?

You should always keep your hands where an officer can see them during a traffic stop. If it’s dark, turn on your car’s interior lights and partially roll down your window. Once an officer approaches your vehicle, wait for their instructions.

When a police officer asks for your license and registration, produce them. Inform the officer if you need to reach into your glove box. Consistent communication can keep traffic stop tensions low. Do not get out of your car, and do not argue with attending officers.

If an officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, ask if you’re being detained. Police officers do not have the right to search you without probable cause. If you’re not being detained, ask an officer if you’re free to go. Police officers must allow you to leave the scene if they’ve investigated your circumstances and found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Officers must also allow you to leave a scene if they’ve opted not to detain you and have already given you a ticket.

Do you have to show ID in the state of Indiana?

Indiana is one of 24 “stop and identify” states. This classification means that police officers throughout Indiana have the right to pull a car over and demand that the driver and passengers provide their identification. Any party that fails to provide identification documentation can be detained under Indiana’s stop and identify laws.

That said, any party detained by police officers for refusing to provide their identification may claim that the officers did not have good reason to demand it. You can work with our criminal defense lawyers to challenge police officers’ grounds for a stop if the detainment evolves into an arrest.

Are police allowed to enter your vehicle during a traffic stop in Indiana?

According to the Fourth Amendment, police officers do not have the right to enter your vehicle without your consent. Police officers must argue probable cause or present you with a warrant to garner the right to enter your vehicle. Even then, you can challenge an officer’s interpretation of probable cause if you suspect it was wrong.

If, however, you verbally give police officers permission to search your car during a routine traffic stop, you waive your right to deny them entry. This is why it’s important to know your rights at a traffic stop. You are not required to allow police to enter or search your vehicle during a routine traffic stop. Police officers do not have the right to level criminal charges against you fro refusing to let them search your car.

If a police officer attempts to intimidate you or threatens to enter your car, make a note of your circumstances and report them to an attorney as soon as you can.

Can you record police during a traffic stop in Indiana?

The First Amendment protects the right of drivers, their passengers, and nearby witnesses to videotape police officers during traffic stops. Police officers can subsequently ask applicable parties to stop recording but do not have the right to take possession of anyone’s phone or another recording device without probable cause of a crime.

What criminal charges could you face in a traffic stop in Indiana?

Police officers who have probable cause that you violated Indiana traffic laws or have otherwise engaged in criminal behavior can charge you with misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances of your case. Drivers suspected of DUI or a drug charge, for example, can face felony charges for their alleged misconduct.

If you don’t cooperate with police officers during a traffic stop, those officers may accuse you of resisting arrest or obstructing justice. Resisting arrest alone qualifies the accused party for either a Class A misdemeanor or a Level 2 through 6 felony, according to Indiana Code Section 35-44.1-3-1.

If you don’t understand the charges leveled against you and want to challenge them before they impact your freedoms, you should contact a criminal defense attorney.

How can a lawyer help?

Criminal defense attorneys do more than give you the tools to defend yourself from false accusations. Our team stands with you in conversations with police officers. We ensure that police officers do not misinterpret your case and appropriately represent your circumstances before a judge. You can count on Stein Law to challenge the state’s burden of proof if police officers level criminal charges against you.

You can reach out to our team while detained and count on our attorneys to rush to your side. The sooner you’re able to defend yourself against criminal accusations, the better. Contact Stein Law online or by calling our office today.