Know Your Rights: Q&A with Criminology Professor Michael Hepner

Posted on 30 March 2015 by admin

Criminology Professor Michael Hepner talks about your rights when being pulled over or asked to show your I.D.


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When can a police officer search you or your car? 

When ever they want, if you give them permission

Do you have to give them permission? 

You do not have to give them permission. If they don’t give me permission, I’m going to need to have some sort of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Either one. I’m going to have to have articulable facts why I went ahead and searched that vehicle.

You are allowed to deny any search of your property. For your person, an officer any time there is an encounter that is consensual will have to have reasonable and artiulable suspicion. At anytime a police officer can ask the subject.

Does it make you look more suspicious if someone says no? 

You know you look more suspicious if you say no. It [the Fourth Amendment] still protects your rights to unreasonable search and seizure. Police can’t search without having some sort of suspicion or probable cause.

It may make you look more suspicious but at the end of the day the police officer can’t do anything about it.

Are you required to step out of your car during a traffic stop? 

Yes, if you are requested to do so.

What defines a traffic stop? 

Speeding, running stop signs and inproper lane usage.

What doesn’t fall under a traffic stop? 

Say there’s a house burgulary in the area and the guy is driving an orange Chevy El Camino. How many orange Chevy El Caminos can there be? The person may not make a traffic violation but I have articulable reason to go ahead and stop them and make a traffic stop.

There is also something called a pretextual stop. For example, if you pull out of a drug house or you’re driving through a well-known drug infested area and you commit a small traffic violation. So what’s illegal in Missouri? Having a license plate cover is illegal. Not having your license plate light out is illegal. I could pull you over for that little stuff.

Am I pulling you over because your license plate light is out? No, I’m pulling you over because you just pulled out of a drug house.

Can you refuse to sign a ticket? 

You can. Does it matter? No. I’ll just give you the ticket and it goes on.

Refusing to sign isn’t going to change anything. I’m not even going to waste my time if you refuse to sign the ticket. It still goes through the system.

Signature or no signature it still goes through the system the same way.

Are you always required to show your ID? 

If you and I were just walking down the street and I’m the police officer and I just want to know who you are, I can just ask for your ID. Same as a search, basically showing your ID is the same as a search. Are you going to hand it to me?

If you do, you’ve just given up your constitutional rights.

But yes, you have the right unless I have some reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you are about to commit a crime, have committed a crime, or are committing a crime.

However if I tell you that you’re a suspect in some sort of criminal investigation, then yes, or you have committed a crime and I articulate that crime to you then you have to show that ID.


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