BVI News

A motorist’s rights: Things to know during a traffic stop

While noting that a warrant is not needed for a police officer to execute a search during a traffic stop, Head of the Traffic Division in the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force Sergeant Augustus Bruce is advising motorists that law enforcers are still required to follow certain protocols during a stop.

In an interview with BVI News this week, Sergeant Bruce said police officers ought to disclose the purpose of the stop to motorists before proceeding, for example.

“You don’t just stop a vehicle and just say, ‘come outside, I want to search your vehicle’. That is not the correct way,” the top traffic cop said.

“So if, for example, I stop a vehicle and just rush into the vehicle and start searching the vehicle without identifying myself and let the person know why I am searching this vehicle and he/she retaliated, in a sense, the person has a right to retaliate. And if they resist you, you cannot charge the person for resisting of arrest or if they assault you, you cannot charge the person for assault on a police officer. You can charge them for an assault on you the person but not in the office of a police officer,” he explained.

“When you (a police officer) stops a vehicle; identify yourself and your office and you let the person know what duty you are carrying out at the time,” Sergeant Bruce added.

“As a police officer, if you have reasons to suspect that a person is carrying, for example, drugs and we have that info, we, therefore, stop the vehicle. We do not need a warrant at the time to stop the vehicle. We will let the person know that we smell an odour of marijuana, in this instance, and inform them that we want to conduct a search,” the Sergeant stated.

“But if someone is investigating a matter for example such as burglary then we will need a warrant signed by a magistrate to go that person’s home,” he added.

Special circumstances

The Sergeant, however, said there are ‘special and sensitive’ circumstances which may result in an officer withholding their reason for stopping a vehicle.

He explained that these circumstances may include instances when they may have to “act promptly”.

“For example, you stop a person and you understand that they are carrying a firearm. You can’t go and tell them that they carrying a firearm because it presents the opportunity for them to draw the firearm and possibly kill you. So it all depends on the situation at hand,” he reasoned.

Stop and Searches

The ranked law enforcer also explained the reasoning behind some of the stop and searches done by police officials on the roadways.

He explained that police officers do not stop specific vehicles while conducting what he described as a ‘general check’.

“If you do that then you are doing selective policing. Once we are doing a general stop, we stop any vehicle,” Sergeant Bruce stated.

He added: “There are also times when you’re conducting an investigation and you’re targeting a specific make or model of vehicles. So, you would try to get those type of vehicles based on your investigations. It all depends on what the officer is assigned to do at the point in time.”

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  1. Me says:

    I don’t fully understand what the officer is trying to convey. It sounds contradictory at times. You can or you cannot stop a vehicle ?

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  2. Why get so violent with everything? says:

    How about the police stop people for traffic violations???? What all this focus on Guns and Drugs? You watch people drive in the BVI? Give the man a ticket for driving in and out of traffic like a crazy person (this island only 10 miles long…where you going so fast? You going to get there within 5 minutes of the man driving normal). Give the man a ticket for parking a car in – there no reason to block a mans car cause you lazy. Give one of those boys racing around on a scooter with no muffler a ticket. No need to give these police more nutty fantastic delusions they some mean super bad crime fighters. WRITE a traffic ticket! Do your Job! God knows this government need the money.

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    • Rubber Duck says:

      Police are afraid of the scooter riders.

      Rather give some law abiding citizen a ticket because they know there is no danger.

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  3. CSY says:

    I should have sued them for stopping me and searching my vehicle without explanation couple years ago when that light skin local cop was trying to gain points or stripes. He surely found what he was looking for: Not a darn thing.

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  4. @ Me says:

    Did you went to school. Cant you read. what is contradicting about this article? Ask some to read it to you then.

    • Logic says:

      Did you go to school? Can’t you read? Where is the contradiction in this article? Ask somebody to read it to you.
      You’re welcome.

  5. @ me says:

    The way the details are presented are a bit confusing not necessarily contradicting in that it outlines how, when and why a police can stop and search.

  6. Retired says:

    This article is confusing and contradictory. It would be better if Sergeant Bruce would just quote some of the applicable law and provide the website for the law(likely the Road Traffic Act)at the end of the news article.

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  7. wize up says:

    good information because some of these police love to circumnavigate the laws of the territory while hiding behind behind the police uniform: the police have a mandate to identify themselves first and foremost: the police then have a mandate to point-out-the offense to U…..

  8. Sigh says:

    Are you allowed to search the PERSON during a vehicle stop and search?

    • locked up abroad says:

      The Officer has the right to ask the person(s) occupying the vehicle: if he (they) have anything like sharp objects in the pocket, any weapon (s) and the likes, and yes the Officer has the right to search that person to be sure and not take their word for it as that can cause the life or injury of the said Officer(s). It’s common sense but we like to go about thinking that the Police don’t have any rights whatsoever.
      We go about thinking that Police need Warrant to search a vehicle instead of educating ourselves on the laws of the land, so when we speak we sound intelligent doing so.
      When I started reading the article I said to myself Bruce now going to stir up trouble more so than ever for the Force. Meaning, persons are going to lament ALL THE TIME that the Police did not identify him (them) self and just started to search the vehicle just so without giving a reason. He did explain somewhat, but as one blogger said he should’ve taken time to lament on the sections of the law.
      I’m glad nonetheless that it’s out there that the Police CAN search a vehicle without a warrant AND should be polite about it even if they have intelligence. You show hostility you get hostility, and that gets you nowhere fast. The person(s) in the vehicle you stop might dislike the Police but if you approach that person(s) with respect the outcome will surprise you.
      I am not a Police, but I believe in respecting the law and I have common sense.

  9. What says:

    So basically they can stop a vehicle on hearsay (true or not), then set the person up with probable cause (from the hearsay, if anything is found), then search without a warrant (odor or not).

    If nothing is found, each party go their way. This is like a fishing expedition. A warrant constitutes for a SPECIFIC search (which is more work, ironically). hope you get the drift.

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  10. Hmm says:

    Still don’t trust the police tho

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