The subject of drivers being stopped unfairly by the police crops up again and again in the media, but a lot of people aren’t actually clear on what their rights are. Here we take a look at the law and your rights when it comes to being stopped while driving.
When the police can stop you
The police are allowed to stop your vehicle for any reason, and you’re breaking the law if you fail to pull over as soon as it’s safe. They can ask to see your driving licence, insurance certificate and MOT certificate; if you don’t have them with you, you have to show them at a police station within 7 days.
If you’re stopped and the police suspect you of an offence, they have the right to give you an on-the-spot fixed penalty notice, make you take a breath test, search or even seize your vehicle depending on the offence you have committed or are suspected of committing.
Fixed penalty notices
Fixed penalty notices can be given for a variety of minor driving offences; details can be found here. If you think a fixed penalty notice has been given unfairly, you can refuse to pay it, but you will have to argue your case in court.
You can be asked to take a breath test if you are suspected of drink-driving, committed a traffic offence or been involved in an accident. If you refuse you can be arrested unless you have a physical or mental condition which prevents you from taking the test. If you’re suspected of driving under the influence of drugs they can ask you to take a drug test or a physical competency test.
If you fail a test you can’t drive your car until you are sober, but someone else is allowed to collect it for you.
The police can stop and search any vehicle as long as they have grounds for thinking they will find any of the following items:
- Stolen goods
- Offensive weapons including knives
- Items which could damage or destroy property.
However, if they suspect you of involvement in terrorism or a serious violent offence they don’t need ground for thinking they’ll find these items in order to stop and search your vehicle.
Your vehicle can be seized if you’re considered to be driving dangerously or carelessly, if you’re suspected of not having insurance and/ or a licence, if it’s dangerously or illegally parked, or if it’s broken down or abandoned. You will usually have to pay a release fee of up to £200, plus £20 for every day or part of a day that the police have stored your vehicle.