Students’ Rights: Getting Pulled Over

Oliver Hurst, Staff writer

This article is the first in a series on students’ rights.

Being able to get your license and drive is a significant milestone in high school. But with the ability to drive comes the possibility of getting pulled over, an event that is stressful for everyone, especially new drivers. Knowing the procedures of a traffic stop and what to do during one can help ease this anxiety.

Both the Dunwoody Chief of Police, Billy Grogan, and Chamblee Police Department Lieutenant Guy Antinozzi agreed on the basics of what should happen during a traffic stop. Once the officer has observed a violation, they will flash their light and turn on their siren. Additionally, once they walk up to your window, the officer should identify themselves and what organization they work for and describe your traffic violation to you.

That said, many Chamblee Charter High School Students seemed to not know what their rights are during a traffic are and what they are expected to do.

“I don’t really know exactly [what rights I have], if any,” said junior Emery Wahlen. “Nobody has told me what to say or do if I were to be pulled over.”

Grogan helped explain students’ rights during a traffic stop.

“If an officer asks to search your car, you have a right to say no,” said Grogan. “Unless the officer has probable cause, an example would be if he smells the odor of marijuana, he can’t search your car. You can film an officer as long as you do not interfere with the officer conducting his or her job and as long as it doesn’t prevent you from responding to the officer.”

However, Antinozzi cautioned that you still must comply with the officer’s request. He referenced a U.S Supreme Court Case, Maryland v. Wilson, which essentially decided that police officers have control of the traffic stop during the time of the stop and can even order passengers out of the car.

Antinozzi and Grogan also emphasized the importance of having respect for the officer and following all instructions given to you when pulled over. According to them, it can be the difference between just getting a warning and getting a ticket. Antinozzi also offered advice when it comes to having passengers in the car during a traffic stop.

“Things [during a traffic stop] always go bad because of passengers,” said Antinozzi. “They never know when to shut up. The driver is respectful, they are like, ‘Oh man I’m going to get in trouble with my parents.’And the passenger starts saying, ‘You don’t have to listen to him, roll your window up, he didn’t have any right to do this,’ which just gets the driver agitated.”

In the end, both police officers wanted to reiterate that no one is after you. The police pull people over when someone is doing something that is illegal and potentially harmful to others.

“We did not pull you over for no reason,” said Antinozzi. “How important do you think you are, that we are just randomly picking you out? We have a lot to do. It is not like we just see a young person and say ‘Oh let’s go get him.’ It does not make any sense. Something happened to generate the traffic stop.”