What are My Rights When Stopped by Police in North Carolina?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can the police search my car without a warrant?”


One minute you are driving along without a care in the world and the next you are getting pulled over by the police. A police encounter can happen in an instant, so it is important to know and understand your rights. While you do not want to disobey law enforcement, you do need to know what you can and should do if you get stopped by police in North Carolina. It is helpful to remember that every situation is different and has a unique set of circumstances, so there is no simple advice that applies to every police encounter. Keep in mind that a North Carolina criminal defense attorney can assist you with every aspect of your case if you face arrest or charges.


Police-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x225What is the Difference Between Detainment and Arrest?


First, you will want to understand the difference between detainment and arrest. When the police stop you for whatever reason, generally it is considered a detainment which typically falls under the category of a consensual encounter. This simply means that law enforcement is holding you in place for a short period of time while they question you or learn more about a particular situation. Arrest is a more substantial hold and securement that is the first step in a legal process. Police cannot detain you for an extended period of time, although the exact length of time depends on the specific situation. When law enforcement puts you under arrest you must comply with the request or face additional charges such as resisting arrest.


What are My Rights?


Every U.S. citizen enjoys the rights that are inherent in the Constitution. The constitution includes amendments called the Bill of Rights. These rights are provided to all people in the United States. There are also rights in the North Carolina Constitution. In general, these rights allow you privacy and the police may only search your property if they have just cause or a search warrant. Likely the most important rights you have if you are detained or arrested are part of the Miranda Warning.


Miranda warnings remind people of their constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney, among others. It is usually best to stay silent until you have an attorney present to provide guidance, even if you think you are innocent. Remember, if you speak voluntarily, what you say could be used against you in court.


What Happens if the Officer Fails to Read My Rights?


Many people are under the misconception that whenever the police fail to read you the Miranda rights your case will be tossed out. That is not what actually occurs. Law enforcement needs to provide you with your rights because they want to question you about a particular matter. If they do not intend to question you, the Miranda rights may not come into play. If the police question you without making sure you know your rights, the information they gain as a result of that questioning might not be able to be used against you in your case.


However, keep in mind that if you do not answer questions or do not agree to speak with the police, there is no evidence they have gathered and therefore, nothing to be omitted from the case. Only evidence that is gathered illegally might be kept out of the case. The prosecutor may have other evidence in your case. It is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to assist you with the legal process.


If you were arrested, you will want to seek assistance from our experienced team of criminal defense attorneys. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.







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