Call Us Today - It's Free! Text Us
Text Us

10 Tips for California Drivers

vehicles lined up in traffic jam

You have specific rights on the roadway when driving your vehicle. However, law enforcement doesn’t always respect your constitutional rights. So, it is important that you understand your legal rights when driving. In this article, we outline 10 tips for California drivers.

1. Officers must have “reasonable suspicion” to pull you over

  • An officer needs to be able to point to a crime or traffic violation that has taken place to pull you over.

2. You can ask officers if you are “free to go”

  • If an officer says you are not free to go but you haven’t been arrested yet then you are being “detained.”

3. Dealer plates are illegal

  • As of January 2019 – dealer tags with advertising that do not have a license plate number on it are illegal and will be a sufficient basis for a vehicle stop.

4. An officer can ask you to produce identifying information

  • You must show your drivers license, registration and proof of insurance if you are asked for these documents.

5. Remain calm.

  • Be professional – even if upset – aim to recall the events with detail rather than engaging in verbal combat with the officer
  • Once you have parked the car, turn the engine off. Rest your hands in clear sight, preferably on the steering wheel, and with the interior light turned on if it is nighttime.

6. You have the right to ask why you were pulled over.

  • Police officers are usually the ones who ask you if you know why you are being pulled over. Simply ask them what the reason is rather than speculating.

7. Do not try to talk your way out of the situation.

  • You are better off remaining silent if the police officer finds that you have committed a crime. Anything you say can be used against you.

8. You do not have to take field sobriety or breathalyzer tests unless you are on probation for a DUI.

  • These include eye tests, one-leg stand, walk and turn, finger-to-nose tests and preliminary alcohol screening tests.

9. You do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle and the police can only search it if they have probable cause.

  • The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure by the police.

10. Stay up to date with maintenance on your vehicle.

  • Something as simple as a tail light being out can lead to a traffic stop with unpredictable outcomes. Check your brake lights, tail lights, indicator lights, and tires regularly to avoid traffic stops for maintenance violations.

If you have any questions about whether your arrest stemmed from an improper stop or if you were subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure, The Nieves Law Firm can help you. Please contact us at (510)-588-8580 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google