Recent changes to the Newfoundland and Labrador Highway Traffic Act allow police to arbitrarily pull over vehicles. Previously, police had to have articulable cause, like, say, a broken headlight or a half-open trunk full of drained liquor bottles.
So what remaining civil rights do you have if you’re pulled over?
According to criminal lawyer Bob Simmonds, not many.
“They have the right to stop you arbitrarily, if they wish to,” says Simmonds. “It’s not a case of whether you should cooperate. The law now requires you under the highway traffic act to stop.”
If you’re the driver, says Simmonds, they can ask for your license and registration. If you’re a passenger in a car that’s been pulled over, he says they’re allowed to ask you for identification.
“Once they stop you, they can look into your car,” he says. They can’t do a full-out search immediately, though. By law, they need justification for that.
“If, supposedly, they see something that’s illegal, they can take further steps,” he explains. “They can search under the Liquor Control Act, for instance. To search a home, they need a search warrant, but in the case of a car, it’s not nearly as clear.”
“There’s really not very much a driver can do,” he adds. “Cooperate with the police, and take very good notes as quickly as you can after the stop if you are supposedly charged with anything.”