Understanding Your Rights During Traffic Stops
What do you need to know about traffic stops in the Muscogee Creek Nation? My name’s Ted Hasse. I practice in tribal and federal court in eastern Oklahoma. This is part three, talking about traffic stops here in Indian country. Again, this applies in Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and then you’ll find a lot that applies to non-Native Americans here too.
Where we left off last was talking about the investigation that is happening when officers start asking you questions, and talked about the specific question where they’re frequently asking you about, is there a firearm in the car, that sort of thing, and what the appropriate response is. If you want to know more about that, go back and see part two.
Questions Directed Towards Other People Within the Vehicle
Here, I want to pause and talk about questions directed towards other people within the vehicle. The other really popular question that law enforcement seem to want to ask is, they want to know where you’re coming from and they want to know where you’re going. And they ask with such authority, people sort of think they got to tell them. You have, they have no right to demand that information from you. They are, you know, allowed to pretend like they can ask that of you and pretend like you’re required to ask, required to answer, but you’re not required to answer.
And again, just like every other question, you know, other than asking to hand over your license, registration, and proof of insurance, the answer to a question from an officer, which is, understand you’re being interrogated. The answer is, I don’t want to answer any questions. And again, you can say that in any way you want to say it. I just recommend you say it politely. You can say, I saw a lawyer online that said I don’t have to answer any questions and I don’t think I want to answer questions. Or you could say, officer, I understand my rights and my rights are that I don’t have to answer your questions.
Identification Requirements during a Traffic Stop
What happens over and over again, and we hear about this, and then of course, I see it in the police reports later after we’re trying to clean up the mess, is law enforcement in Muscogee Creek Nation and Oklahoma generally pretend like they have a right to identify everybody in the car. And I’m afraid some of them are mistaken in that belief that that’s true. We are not what’s called a stop and ID state. And then Muscogee Creek Nation is not a stop and ID Indian reservation. There is no statutory requirement for people who are being stopped by police to provide their identification.
Now, understand that changes once you’re arrested. Once you’re arrested, you have to identify yourself. Even if you’ve been wrongfully arrested, you need to identify yourself. However, during a traffic stop, if you are not the driver of that vehicle, that officer has no right to demand your identification. If that driver has been pulled over, it’s because he’s suspected of committing some violation of the law. It’s because there’s some deficiency on their vehicle or that they were made some other violation or they were swerving or something else. It wasn’t you, whether you’re sitting in the back seat, whether you’re sitting in the third row, whether you’re sitting in the passenger seat.
Over and over again, law enforcement will say, what’s your name? Or I need your ID, too, or something like that. And, for passengers, the answer is, no, sir, I don’t think you do. And here’s where, views differ. Some people, if you’re confident that you have, no warrants, that you’ve never had any problems with the law, maybe you want to identify yourself, giving your name, but you don’t have to. And if certainly if there’s any risk that there’s an old unpaid ticket out there or something, what they’re looking for is they’re looking to run your identification to see if you have warrants, and they’re going to arrest you if they find an old warrant. The answer is, officer, not, I don’t think you do need to identify me. I haven’t, am I suspected of a crime? If you, you really don’t need to have a conversation about this. The answer is just no. You’re not obligated within the Muskogee Creek Nation to provide your identification, and certainly, unfortunately, I think some officers are confused and actually believe that they have a right to it. They don’t, this is simply not the case. It’s not the case in any country, and it’s not the case in the state at large.
Contact Us for Expert Tribal Law Representation
We’re going to continue on with this series, with the rest of likely investigation during a stop. What I want to say again is, my name is Ted Hassey. If you are a loved one is facing a criminal charge in Muskogee Creek Nation or any other tribal court, you’re going to want to get good representation. You’re going to want to get an expert in tribal law. So you want to give us a call at (918) 947-6552, and we’ll be glad to talk to you.