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.