If you drive a car in the United States, you’ve probably been stopped by the police at least once. It was probably for something relatively trivial like a busted taillight or an expired license plate, and you may even have received a warning rather than a ticket. The police make hundreds of traffic stops every day in Nevada, and that how many if not most of them end – with a warning. However, if a police officer thinks that you’re committing a crime other than a traffic violation, a traffic stop can quickly spiral into a serious situation where you’ll need to know your legal rights. If you’re arrested as the result of a traffic stop in the Las Vegas area, discuss your case at once with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.
If the police pull you over in traffic, and if they believe that you are carrying a weapon, you can be searched on the spot and without a warrant. The courts have determined that these kinds of body searches are legal because police officers have the right to defend their own lives. If illegal drugs, weapons, or stolen cash or property are found on you during this kind of body search, by law your rights have not been violated, and that evidence can be used against you in court.
When you’re driving and you’re pulled over by the police, they do not need a warrant to search your vehicle. All they need is “probable cause” – something tangible that leads them to believe you’re involved in criminal behavior. A police officer’s “hunch” is not probable cause; neither is a minor traffic violation like speeding, a busted tail-light, or an expired registration. Probable cause must be genuine evidence of potential criminal activity; the smell of marijuana or gunpowder, for example. Probable cause allows the police to search your vehicle and to act on whatever they find. How can you keep police from searching your car?
- Stay calm and composed. If the police stops you, pull over immediately, turn off your car, and place your hands on the wheel. Police officers like to see your hands, so wait until they ask for your license and registration before reaching for them. At night, flip on your dome light, so the officer can see you clearly.
- Address a policeman or policewoman as “Officer.” Never talk back, raise your voice, or use profanity with a police officer.
- Do not answer any leading questions. Officers are trained to “trick” you into admitting wrongdoing. If the police ask, “Do you know how fast you were going?” the best answer is simply “No, officer.” Because anything you say can (and will) be used against you in court, it’s best to say nothing. Just keep quiet and calm.
- If you receive a ticket, accept it without complaint. Listen politely to the officer’s instructions. Drive away slowly when the police are finished with you. You’ll have plenty of opportunity later to obtain a lawyer and challenge the ticket.
- Don’t wait to be dismissed; ask if you are free to go. If the officer lets you leave, do it immediately. If you are not free to go, you are being detained, and you may be arrested.
Also, if the police impound your vehicle, they may legally search it without a warrant.
If the police stop you in traffic in the Las Vegas area, be pleasant and cooperate – to a point – but insist on your right to remain silent if the cops start asking you questions. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle. If you are charged with a crime on the basis of a traffic stop and a vehicle search, you must be represented by an attorney who regularly represents defendants arrested at traffic stops and who fully understands the legal issues involved. If you’re arrested for any reason at a traffic stop in Las Vegas, discuss your rights and your options at once with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.
Nevada Points System
But even if you only receive a traffic citation, you should contest it. Points against your license can add up and increase your insurance costs, so speak promptly with an experienced traffic ticket attorney.
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has established a points system to encourage good driving. Certain traffic violations will add points to your driving record and move you closer and closer to potentially losing your driving privileges.
Some of the most common traffic violations that add points to your driving record include:
- Reckless driving will add eight points to your driving record
- Careless driving will add six points to your driving record
- Following too closely will add four points to your driving record
- Failing to give right-of-way will add four points to your driving record
- Failing to yield to a pedestrian will add four points to your driving record
- Disregarding traffic light or stop sign will add four points to your driving record
- Driving too slowly will add four points to your driving record
Speeding will also add points to your record, but the number of points added depends on how fast you were going. If you were driving 1-10 mph over the limit, you will receive one point, if you were driving 11-20 mph over the limit, you will receive two points. If you were driving 21-30 mph over the limit, you will receive three points. If you were driving 31-40 mph over the limit, you will receive four points. If you were driving 41 mph or more over the limit, you will receive five points.
Nevada prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones and texting while driving. However, the first offense of using a hand-held phone while driving does not add points to your record. The second time, and any time after, you are given a ticket for using a hand-held phone while driving, you will receive four points on your driving record.
Whether it’s a serious crime or a minor traffic violation, an experienced defense attorney will work tirelessly for the best possible resolution to your case.