Citizens have certain constitutional rights when it comes to interactions with police and other law enforcement agencies. Those rights do not disappear the moment they get behind the wheel of a car. Still, it is true that motorists don’t necessarily have free reign in police interactions. For example, there is implied consent, which per F.S. 316.1932 allows police to compel drivers to submit to breath alcohol testing upon reasonable suspicion of intoxication. A refusal results in an automatic, year-long driver’s license suspension. Police have the right to temporarily stop drivers in sobriety checkpoints, so long as these operations follow certain legal protocols, such as ensuring vehicles are stopped purely at random.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, considered a case that raised the question of whether police can retaliate against a citizen for refusing to answer police questions. This is a civil case, as opposed to a criminal one, but it deals with important matters pertinent to those in a traffic stop.
According to court records, plaintiff was pulled over and declined to answer police questions. According to his complaint (and the court assumes these facts to be true at this stage, though they could later be proven incorrect), the sergeant at that point retaliated against this refusal to answer questions by ordering plaintiff out of the vehicle and then putting him face down on the ground. Continue reading