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Traffic stops: What are your rights? Jeff Rossen explains

What are you required to do when the police pull you over? What do you have the right to do (and not do)? Jeff Rossen explains on TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

As the July 19 traffic stop of Samuel DeBose in Cincinnati shows, things can escalate quickly — even dangerously — when a police officer pulls you over.

What is an officer allowed to do during a traffic stop? And what are your rights? On Thursday, TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen was assisted by Sgt. Henry Favor of the Rochester Police Department in New York state in an on-air demonstration.

What the police officer is allowed to do:

  • Ask for your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You are required to produce these documents when asked.
  • Ask you why you were stopped. However, "you won't have to answer a question," Favor explained. "You can say 'I don't know,' or not say anything at all."
  • Ask you to step out of the car. "This is another one of those things that you have to do," Favor said.

What you're allowed to do:

  • Record the incident if you choose. "You're absolutely allowed to record," Favor said. However, he cautioned that you should not make sudden movements or reach into an area the officer cannot see. "Last thing I want to do is think it's a weapon."
  • You can say no if the officer asks to search your car. "It's a request; I'm asking for consent," Favor explained. But you do not have to consent to the request.

"The bottom line is there's only two things that you have to do," Favor said. "You have to provide your license, registration and proof of insurance, and then you have to get out of the car when we tell you to."

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To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.