Many people in Mesa don’t realize their rights during a police stop. Some people believe they are doing themselves a favor by being honest and consenting to a search, but it can actually make things worse for you if you volunteer information that isn’t required. As the famous words go, it could be used against you. In these situations, if you’ve been charged with something, it’s better to request the opportunity to speak with your Arizona criminal defense attorney to avoid incriminating yourself.

There are two primary rights afforded to individuals under the Constitution when it comes to interacting with the police during these kinds of stops. Being aware of your rights could help you avoid escalation or searches of you and your property.

Fifth Amendment Rights

When in doubt, exercise your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and choose to speak directly with your Arizona criminal defense attorney. This amendment gives you protection from incriminating yourself, so you are allowed to stay quiet while being questioned by the police. There are two exceptions to this rule of silence:

  • Routine identification questions asked by the police officer (e.g. name, date of birth, address, etc…)
  • Procedural questions asked during an investigative stop (e.g. what do you want to do with your property, where would you like your car towed to?)

If the police have stopped you, you’re not required to answer questions beyond that. This means questions about where you were headed at the time of the stop or where you came from do not require an answer.

Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment ends up being critical for an Arizona criminal defense case a fair amount of the time because it outlines an individual’s constitutional protection from illegal searches and seizures. In general, you can refuse a search of your vehicle, but there are important exceptions to this regarding situations where the police have a warrant or where “exigent circumstances” give the police the authority to proceed with a search. Whether an Arizona individual has been read Miranda rights or not, it is in his or her best interests to invoke these rights to avoid possible criminal charges.

If the police request a search of your vehicle, you do not need to know if they are authorized by the 4th Amendment to perform the search.  You simply should NOT give them permission to search, even if you feel the search is justified.  If you give consent to search, then your permission makes the 4th Amendment no longer applicable and the search, justified or not, is constitutional.  However, if you refuse consent, and the police perform the search without a warrant, that search can be challenged later.  If the search is not authorized by the 4th Amendment or one of the acceptable exceptions, then any evidence obtained is unlawful and will be suppressed.

Search and Seizure Exceptions

The Fourth Amendment is your cornerstone protection against illegal searches and seizures, but as mentioned above, there are exceptions that empower the police to legally conduct a search. Here are the following reasons that police commonly engage in a search following a stop:

  • Plain View Rule: Police officers don’t need to obtain a search warrant to confiscate any items left in their view during the stop.
  • Exigent Circumstances: These are usually defined as “emergency situations” where an officer acts to prevent escape, danger to life, or serious property damage.
  • Consent Searches: As mentioned above, if you give your consent to their search of your vehicle, you’ve automatically made their search legal and allowable.
  • Searches Deemed “Incident to Arrest”: A police officer does not need a warrant to search you after a legal arrest. These searches are done to determine whether you have a weapon, but whatever the officer finds can be used against you.

If you believe that you’ve been subjected to a police stop where your constitutional rights were violated, you need legal advice you can trust. Contact Mesa Criminal Defense Lawyer Garrett L. Smith today to have an advocate in your corner.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Mesa Criminal Attorney, Garrett L. Smith at 480-540-6021 log on to, or contact an attorney in your area.