You’re stopped by the police for a minor traffic infraction and the officer asks to search your car for no apparent reason. What would you say? Are you required to agree? Knowing your rights and having legal counsel who you can trust can make a world of a difference in your interactions with the police. Fiffik Law Group Attorney Karyn Coy recently helped to stop the unlawful search of her client’s car during a routine traffic stop.
Attorney Coy’s client, a Philadelphia man, was pulled over by police for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. He complied with the police officer’s orders by providing his license, registration, and proof of insurance. After confirming these were all valid and up-to-date, the officer should have either given the client a verbal warning or a written citation and then left the scene. Instead, the officer became aggressive and demanded to search the man’s car.
The man was stunned – he had done everything that he was supposed to do. He knew the officer had no legitimate reason to want to search his car. When he asked the officer why he wanted to search his car, the officer accused the man of acting nervous. Not only is the appearance of nervousness not a valid legal reason to search someone’s car, but it is a perfectly normal response when confronted by an agitated police officer. When the man refused the search – after the officer repeatedly attempted to intimidate the man into consenting to it – the officer called in backup. With the situation escalating from what was, in reality, a minor traffic violation, the man knew he needed help.
Black drivers are searched about one and a half to two times as often as white drivers even though they are less likely to be carrying illegal contraband compared to white drivers, according to a study done by New York University. Another study done by the University of South Carolina found that black people are 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Knowing those statistics and being familiar with news stories of police interactions with minorities going horribly wrong, one can imagine how scared the man must have been in this situation.
While the man anxiously waited for additional police officers to arrive, he called the LegalShield® Emergency line and was immediately connected with Attorney Coy. After he explained the situation, Attorney Coy advised her client of his rights, which was that there was absolutely no reason for the officer to search his car. She then made her presence known to the officer through speakerphone, stating she was advising her client not to consent to the search, and that he should either write him a citation or let him go. As soon as the officer realized the man had an attorney on the phone, he changed his tune and let him go without a citation or even a verbal warning.
“Access to justice means having the resources to defend yourself when you are not being treated fairly according to the law. I’m thankful I was able to get in contact with my client before the situation escalated.” - Karyn Coy | Attorney, Fiffik Law Group, PC
This altercation with police might have gone very differently if the client had not called Attorney Coy. The LegalShield® Emergency line is crucial for situations like this one where you need to get in contact with an attorney immediately. There is no body camera requirement for police officers in Pennsylvania, so, without an attorney present, whether or not you consented to a search comes down to your word against the police’s. It is not only important to be aware of your rights, but it is also crucial to have an attorney on your side advocating for you.
Fiffik Law Group's mission is to provide access to justice for all. If you find yourself in a similar situation where you need to contact an attorney on the spot, call the LegalShield® Emergency Line at 1-877-825-3797. If you are interested in becoming a LegalShield® member, learn more here.