Lesson 5 of 8
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Law Enforcement – Duties & Responsibilities

Mel Dowdell June 21, 2020

The primary duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers is to ensure the safety of both officers and citizens before, during, and immediately following traffic stops.

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1. Duties & Responsibility

Law enforcement officers should respond with courtesy during traffic stops and other officer/citizen interactions. It is the officers responsibility to:

  • Treat motorists with dignity and respect
  • Provide explanation to a driver as to why a citation is issued
  • Instruct drivers to read the information provided on the citation regarding the driver’s obligation to appear in court

Officers are not required by state law to provide their names or badge numbers to a driver.

2. Comply With Officer Request

Drivers and passengers should respond with courtesy during traffic stops. Please keep the following in mind:

  • You can legally choose to remain silent during a traffic stop.
  • You are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer.
  • A driver or passenger can be arrested for giving false identifying information to an officer.
  • Although you have the right to remain silent, it may be beneficial to verbally communicate your name and address for an officer if you cannot present your license.
3. Driver & Passenger Rights

As a driver or passenger you have the legal right to:

  •  ...ask an officer if you are being detained or if you are free to leave
  • ...leave if you are not being detained
  • ...to remain silent (You are required by law to identify yourself)

*A driver or passenger can be arrested for giving false identifying information to an officer

4. Consensual & Non-consensual Search

  • An officer can legally conduct a non consensual search based on an officer’s observation that you have responded in a way to make the officer believe that you have engaged in a criminal act or are about to engage in a criminal act.
  • When seeking to perform a consensual search, officers should elicit clear consent for the search, including when practicable, a signed statement or video recorded affirmative consent to the search from the motorist.
  • If an officer suspects that a weapon is on your person, the officer may conduct a pat-down search of your clothing.
  • A driver may not physically resist the search, but has the right to notify the officer that he or she does not consent to any further search. Consent to a search may later be used in court.
5. What If You Are Arrested?

When the police arrest someone, they take away that person's fundamental right to freedom. Consequently, there are several procedures the police must follow before they can make a legal arrest so that our rights remain protected.

Many states and police departments add extra procedures. These extra procedures might be designed to:

  • Protect police officers' physical safety
  • Help the officer document the arrest
  • Help the officer avoid making a legal mistake which could ruin the prosecution's case

There are only a very limited number of circumstances in which an officer may make an arrest:

  • The officer personally observed a crime.
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime.
  • The officer has an arrest warrant issued by a judge.

An officer cannot arrest someone just because they have a hunch that you have violated the law.

6. Miranda Rights

Disclaimer: The information contained in this course not intended to be consider legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice.