Not every Indiana resident or visitor is familiar with state laws regarding traffic stops. While some drivers and passengers understand fundamental constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, others do not. And then there are those entirely unfamiliar with what the police may or may not do when engaged in a traffic stop.
Understanding what the police may do
The police have the authority to ask a driver for identification during a traffic stop. Whether the driver did or did not commit the supposed infraction might end up settled in traffic court. Regardless, refusing to show a police officer identification could result in a misdemeanor charge.
Things might be a little different for a passenger during a routine traffic stop. Unless the police have a “reasonable suspicion” that the passenger committed a crime, it is legal to refuse to show identification. A state appeals court made that decision in 2010.
Fourth Amendment issues and traffic stops
The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects people from illegal searches and seizures. The police may search a car in Indiana if they have probable cause. Under criminal law statutes, probable cause means the police have more than a reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a crime or is in the process of committing one. Without probable cause, the police cannot legally search the vehicle. The police would not require a warrant if they do have probable cause.
Questions about the legality of probable cause might come up in court. Although the police may claim they had probable cause, a judge might consider counterevidence and find there was no probable cause. An attorney could seek to suppress any evidence procured illegally.
The police may ask a driver for permission to search a car. If the driver agrees, the police could conduct a search without probable cause. Understanding one’s rights might prevent such instances from occurring.