Ask Trooper Steve: Am I under lawful detention when pulled over during a traffic stop?

Trooper Steve answers your traffic questions

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answers viewer questions about the rules of the road every week, helping Orlando-area residents become better drivers by being better educated.

Trooper Steve was asked, “Am I under lawful detention when pulled over during a traffic stop?”

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He said first, people should know what it means to be detained by law enforcement. When you are detained by police, you do not have the right or freedom to leave.

“At this point, you cannot leave because you are subject in someway to an ongoing police investigation. Law enforcement has the right to detain persons who may be involved, in some type of criminal or unlawful activity, for a reasonable amount of time. Note this is not the same as being arrested,” he said.

That being said, Trooper Steve said during the course of a traffic stop, a driver has been detained by police.

“You do not have the right to leave that traffic stop and are required to follow all lawful directions. A driver does not have the right to exit their vehicle. If instructed to exit the vehicle or instructed to stay in the vehicle, then the driver would follow those directions,” he said.

Most recently, a traffic stop conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol recently made headlines after an elected official in the Flagler County area was pulled over.

“He indicated he was going to exit his vehicle, or so he thought. Troopers ordered him to stay inside or he would be arrested. This is all true. Although some elected officials like to believe they are in control of the state police, this is not true. If that driver would have exited his vehicle, then I am sure would have placed him under arrest,” Trooper Steve said.

He reminded drivers that traffic stops are the most dangerous thing law enforcement conducts throughout their career.

“The simple act of following simple instructions makes this all common law enforcement action much safer. I believe because drivers don’t understand that they are being lawfully detained by law enforcement, they tend to question and escalate the situation. If a driver was to remain calm, stay in the car, follow simple directions, traffic stops could be a very brief and educational encounter. Remember the side of the road is not the place to argue about a traffic violation,” he said.

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About the Author:

Steven Montiero, better known as “Trooper Steve," joined the News 6 morning team as its Traffic Safety Expert in October 2017. A Central Florida native and decorated combat veteran, Montiero comes to the station following an eight-year assignment with the Florida Highway Patrol.