Do I Have To Follow A Police Order?

During a traffic stop, most motorists comply with lawful orders by the police. Typically, the officer will ask for the motorist's license and proof of insurance. In some cases, the officer might give the motorist an order to exit the vehicle. If you do not comply, the situation could escalate and you will likely face further charges.

Political Activism

An increasingly common situation is when a motorist considers themselves to be a sovereign citizen and believes that they have to opt into complying with U.S. laws. This often leads to these individuals refusing to comply with orders from an officer and they might eventually be dragged out of the vehicle and taken into custody. But refusal to comply with lawful orders can even occur with those who are not part of a political movement.

Lawful Vs. Unlawful Orders

In the past, a lawful order was considered any order would not cause the motorist to break the law. However, the 1973 decision People v. Jennings ruled that a lawful order must be one that is reasonably designed to achieve a goal. For example, an officer may request that you present your driver's license to them, but the officer cannot order you to smile while doing it or put out your cigarette. 

Lawful Orders and Protected Speech

Failure to follow an order must always be an action that obstructs the officer's activities. You can engage in any form of speech because this is considered a form of protected speech. For example, you could begin singing and the officer would not be able to order you to stop singing. One possible exception is if the officer asks you to answer a question. For instance, if there is reason to believe that you're not a U.S. citizen, you may be required to tell the officer if you are a citizen or not.

Failure to Comply

If you are arrested for failing to follow a legal order, you may have to spend days or even months in jail, pay a fine, or possibly be placed on probation. Also, if you had a chance of receiving a warning for whatever you were pulled over for, this is much less likely if you fail to comply. However, if you believe that the order was not lawful, you may be able to fight the charge with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.

For more information, contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area.