It can be a bit scary to have Michigan police officers come knocking at your door. It’s also emotionally distressing when an officer pulls you over in a traffic stop. Any time you encounter police when they’re acting in an official capacity, it’s best to try to remain calm and to cooperate. However, you never, for any reason, must do anything that undermines or violates your civil rights.
Police must act in accordance with strict protocols and must never take matters into their own hands at the expense of your rights. For example, a police officer can’t pull you over and order you to exit your vehicle without a legitimate cause. An officer can’t enter your home or search your vehicle without your consent unless circumstances exempt them from the warrant requirement.
Civil rights place limitations on police regarding searches and seizures
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you against unlawful searches or seizures. The following list includes numerous limitations that govern what police may or may not do during a traffic stop or at a person’s home or similar situations:
- Police can execute a search if they have a warrant, even if you do not consent to the search.
- Police may not execute a warrantless search, unless there is an imminent threat to public safety, illegal items are in plain sight (i.e., open container of alcohol in front seat of a vehicle during a traffic stop) or if they have already arrested you.
- Police cannot submit evidence in court that they have acquired during an unlawful search and seizure operation.
- Police cannot pull you over for no reason.
When a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop, this is legally a detainment and seizure. You, your vehicle and all occupants in your vehicle are under seizure during a traffic stop. You have protection under the Fourth Amendment. The officer must be able to clearly state a legitimate reason for the stop.
With power and authority comes great responsibility
There are many loyal and dutiful police officers in Michigan. However, as with any industry, there are also some who don’t do their jobs right. In fact, there have been many cases where police officers have violated civil rights.
If you believe an officer unlawfully pulled you over or arrested you, or a violation of your rights occurred during a search and seizure, Michigan laws provide recourse for you to address the matter in front of a judge. You must be provided the opportunity to refute criminal charges and defend your rights, especially if a law enforcement officer has used excessive force, conducted an illegal search or acted outside of search and seizure limitations in any way.