Getting pulled over for a traffic violation can be a stressful experience. Many of those who are involved in a traffic stop get nervous and end up volunteering far too much information to the officer. This can sometimes result in additional charges that never would have occurred had the driver stopped talking before incriminating him or herself.
Most drivers in normal situations have no idea how much information they are required to give officers when they are pulled over. This is understandable, especially since the law has recently changed on the matter.
In the past, officers have been allowed to ask additional questions for a short period of time beyond ending the purpose for the stop. This could include questions about whether the driver has been drinking if they have a weapon in the car, or other probing inquiries to uncover additional criminal behavior.
However a recent Iowa Supreme Court Case (State v. Coleman) ruled that “when the reason for the traffic stop is resolved and there is no other basis for reasonable suspicion, article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution requires that the driver must be allowed to go his or her way without further ado.” This decision, in effect, means that drivers are no longer required to obey officer requests to answer additional questions once the purpose for the stop is concluded. Any further detention by the office is now illegal under Iowa law.
A follow-up ruling in the Iowa Court of Appeals (State v. Campbell) supported this decision. It stated that officers should be free to question the detained motorist about the charge he or she is being cited for, but can go no further without violating the Constitution.
What does this mean for you? If you are stopped by an officer, you should know that they are limited to asking you questions about the reason you were pulled over. Without further reason to investigate, the officer must let you go. No matter how nervous you are, don’t volunteer extra information or answer any more questions the officer asks. When the reason for the stop is resolved and there is no other basis for suspicion (such as erratic behavior that may indicate intoxication), you must be allowed to be on your way.
Knowing your rights is important for all citizens of Iowa. Be your own advocate, and, of course, stay safe out there on the roads!