Posted By: On behalf of J. Kevin Stockstill, Attorney At Law // On:
In today's social climate, being approached by an officer can be very intimidating. As a result, it's important to know your rights under Louisiana law.
Rights Without Arrest
An officer can stop you (regardless of where or what mode of transportation) simply on the basis of suspicion. You need not have been seen committing a
crime to warrant a routine stop. However, they can only hold you for a short time while investigating this, either proving or disproving their initial
suspicion. Initially, your requirement is to identify yourself as soon as you are asked. In Louisiana, you can be arrested simply for not identifying
yourself to a police officer.
You are not required to agree to a search, whether of yourself, your vehicle, or your home. You have a choice here. If you allow a search, know that anything
found during this search can lead to your arrest and be used against you in a court of law. You can also refuse the search; however, if an officer
has probable cause, you may be subject to a full search. Let's break this down further.
Body search: An officer is only allowed to pat you down for weapons if you are not under arrest and they have probable cause. The officer
cannot reach into your pockets unless he believes that you are holding a weapon there. However, should an officer have cause to search your pockets,
whatever is found can also be held against you. Unless you are under arrest, a full body search is unlawful.
Vehicle search: It is not necessary for an officer to have a warrant to search your car. However, you do not have to consent to a car
search. If there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, an officer can search within your arm's reach. They can also search your vehicle if
they believe an item used in a crime is in a specific place, but they cannot search the entire vehicle. Additionally, if anything incriminating is
seen or smelled in "plain sight," you can be arrested without a search.
Home search: A warrant is still necessary for your home, unless there is an emergency inside or someone the officer believes lives there
with you allows them inside. Otherwise, you have the right to refuse the search.
Rights Under Arrest
If you are under arrest, the officer has every right to conduct a full and thorough body and vehicle search. Additionally, you have the right to remain
silent and the right to an attorney as soon as you are taken into custody. It is imperative that you invoke these and all rights before and after arrest.