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Car Stops

If you are driving or riding in a car, police officers can ask you certain questions and take certain actions.

  • An officer can stop a car if they have probable cause that the driver and/or occupants have committed or are committing a crime or a traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of a felony or NYS Penal Law misdemeanor.
  • The officer can ask you for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurancewhich you must provide.
  • The officer may direct you to get out of the car, and you must do so.
    • If an officer reasonably believes you may be armed and dangerous, they can frisk your outer clothing to feel for weapons.
  • In some circumstances, the officer can ask for consent to search you, your belongings, or your car.
    • If you do not want them to search your car or belongings, you can refuse by saying, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • If the officer has a probable cause to believe there may be evidence of the crime for which they initiated the stop, they may search car for such evidence, without a warrant or your consent. For example:
    • If the officer has probable cause that there was a firearm in a car, they may search the entire car, including the trunk, in areas where that firearm might be hidden.
    • However, if the officer stopped the car because one if its tail-lights was out, the officer cannot search the car without a warrant or the driver’s consent.
  • If the officer stops a car because the officer has reasonable suspicion that a felony or penal law misdemeanor is being committed, has recently been committed, or about to be committed by the driver or one of the occupants, the officer may search any area of the car where the driver and/or occupants are sitting (the “grabbable” area).
  • If the officer arrests you, they may then search the passenger compartment of the car as well, including any closed containers in the car.