Do you know your rights if you’re stopped by the police?

You can be stopped by cops for any reason when driving on the UK’s roads. If they signal you to pull over, then you should do so – you’ll be breaking the law if you don’t.

police stop a driver

Know your rights if you’re pulled over by the police: credit: West Midlands Police

What can the police ask me for once I’m pulled over?

If the police stop you for any reason, they can ask to see your:

  • Driving licence
  • Insurance certificate
  • MOT certificate

If you fail to show these documents when asked, because you don’t have them with you, you will have seven days to take them to a police station. Failure to show the requested documents within this this time is a criminal offence.

Breath tests

The police can stop you and ask you to take a breath test if:

  • They believe you’ve been drinking
  • You have committed a traffic offence
  • You have been involved in a road traffic accident

Can I refuse to take a breath test?

If you refuse to be breathalysed, or fail to supply a sample of breath without as ‘reasonable excuse’, the police can arrest you.

What would be a ‘reasonable excuse’?

A ‘reasonable excuse’ for not providing a sample of breath would be a genuine physical or mental condition, preventing you from giving a sample.

What happens if I fail a breath test?

If you fail the breath test, you’ll be taken to a police station where you’ll be given a final, more accurate, breath test. If you fail this one, you’ll be charged.

Failing the initial breath test means you can’t drive your vehicle until you’re sober, but you can ask someone else to collect it for you.


Can the police give you a ‘fixed penalty notice’?

For minor motoring offences, the police can hand out fixed penalty notices.

These can be for less serious traffic offences such as:

  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Tailgating
  • Careless or inconsiderate driving

How much can I be fined?

A fixed penalty notice can carry a fine of up to £200 and you could also be issued with penalty points on your licence.

If I’m pulled over for a minor motoring offence, what else can the police do?

If you’re pulled over by the police for a less serious traffic offence, they can decide to:

  • Take no action
  • Issue a warning
  • Offer driver training
  • Charge you with an offence

Can I refuse the fixed penalty notice?

If you believe you were given a fixed penalty notice unjustly, you can choose not to pay it, but you’ll have to go to court to argue your case.

Faults with your vehicle

If there’s something wrong with your motor, such as a broken headlight, the police may give you a ‘vehicle defect rectification notice’.

If I’m given a ‘vehicle defect rectification notice’, what do I need to do?

You’ll have 14 days from the date of the notice to get your vehicle fixed and produce proof to the police that it’s been fixed – a receipt from the mechanic for the work done.

When can the police seize your vehicle?

If the police believe a vehicle is being used in a way that causes distress, alarm or harassment, they can seize it.

They will also be able to seize a vehicle they think it is being driven:

  • By someone without the proper licence or who is uninsured
  • Illegally or dangerously

An abandoned vehicle can also be seized.

If your vehicle is seized, you may have to pay a release fee of up to £200 and an additional £20 a day for storage charges.


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