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Readers may find this fact about legal rights shocking

Many people in New Mexico and throughout the United States believe certain things regarding what police may or may not do during a traffic stop. Some of these beliefs are based on popular opinions or myths more than facts. For example, many people think a police officer must inform a driver of the reason for a traffic stop. Some people think it is a violation of their legal rights if a patrol officer does not do this.

Such people may be surprised to learn that police are not required to tell a driver why a traffic stop is occurring. This is not to suggest that a police officer does not need a reason to make a traffic stop. On the contrary, every officer must have reasonable cause to detain a motorist and must be able to articulate that cause in court, if a case goes to trial.

What to do if a police officer does not state the reason for a traffic stop

A police officer who has made a traffic stop must investigate the situation to confirm the reasonable suspicion or to establish probable cause to make an arrest. If a police officer has not stated the reason for a traffic stop, some drivers opt for politely stating that they are invoking the right to record a video of the traffic stop. This documents the incident and can provide evidence if a stop is later challenged as unlawful.

A New Mexico police officer can only detain a driver for a reasonable amount of time to determine whether the situation merits a warning, citation, traffic ticket or arrest. The law protects all drivers from unlawful police behavior, such as threatening to arrest someone for refusing to take a field sobriety test, which is not obligatory and carries no penalty for refusal. Legal support may be requested if anything seemingly unlawful occurs during a traffic stop.