Things to Do If You’re Stopped by a Police Officer

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We have all been there, getting pulled over by the police and being handed a ticket. Police interactions are stressful and are best avoided if possible. However, it is inevitable to come face-to-face with one once in a while. The best you can do is to be prepared to handle any situation and be aware of your rights to avoid being harassed unnecessarily.

Here is what you can do if you are ever in a similar case and a brief explanation of why officers behave the way they do.

Getting Pulled Over: When You See the Police Car

When you notice that you have been flagged by a police car or hear a siren, pull your car to a comfortable stop safely. Remember that pulling away isn’t admitting guilt. It shows that you are attentive to your surroundings.

The sooner you stop, the better you will understand where and how you violated traffic laws, key information that will help your lawyer defend your case in court. 

Pull over quickly with turn signals to indicate when you are changing lanes while giving enough time for the officer to brake and not hit you. 

Once You Pull Over: What to Do Right After You Stop

It will benefit you to be courteous to an angry and annoyed police officer. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to dispel suspicion or fear in the officer’s mind:

  • Put out any cigarette you are smoking or dispose of any gum you are chewing.
  • Turn on the interior lights if it is night or dark.
  • Pull your window down all the way.
  • Place your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Stay in the car until you are requested to get out
  • Avoid rummaging through your glove compartment or back pocket for identification documents unless asked, as it may be mistaken for withdrawing weapons.

These actions may seem a little confusing and sometimes even downright insulting, but all these actions soothe officers and help them put their guard down. However, you must be aware of crucial information to prevent officers from violating your rights

Do I Have to Get Out of My Car During a Traffic Stop?

As mentioned, refrain from getting out at a traffic stop unless instructed so by the police officer. U.S. law dictates that the driver and passenger are bound to leave the vehicle on command by a traffic official.

Always act on the assumption that the officer is on high alert, ready to take action at the slightest suspicious act, and interpret noncompliance as an attempt to flee or a threat against the law.

Can Police Search My Car or Me During a Traffic Stop?

Although generally, police officers aren’t allowed to search for vehicles when stopped for a traffic violation, there can be exceptions to this rule which can vary according to state laws.

Quick Movements by the Driver or Passengers

Once the officer approaches you, you will be observed for any quick or suspicious movements. This will alert the officer that you are attempting to hide something. 

Illegal Activity the Officer Can See From Outside of the Vehicle

Another point to keep is that the officer will also be on the lookout for any prohibited items or activity, such as beer and wine bottles, roach clips, and joints. This will prompt them to conduct a further search which will reveal more incriminating items and can get you in legal trouble.

Searches for Weapons

If the police officer finds any reason, they are liable to conduct a general pat down and search your outer clothes for any weapon that may be contraband.

They also reserve the right to look through compartments and the passenger seats for hidden weapons.

Vehicle Searches Following the Driver’s Arrest

The police usually conduct an inventory search of the vehicle in case any arrests are made, and the vehicle is towed. 

What About My Cellphone?

Generally, an officer may not search through your phone without your consent or a warrant. 

Talking to the Officer

It is important to keep your cool during a confrontation. Avoid any form of hostility but also avoid talking too much, as both can lead to unnecessary troubles.

Lawyers advise allowing the officer to speak and respond accordingly. However, they also warn that some officers decide beforehand to give a ticket while others award tickets upon being rudely received by drivers. In other cases, they may even attempt to coax a confession out of you through displaying good demeaner.

Nevertheless, it is safe to avoid any arguments and practice your right to silence whenever you are confused.

What To Do If You Are Arrested Or Detained

If you are detained exercise your right to remain silent and immediately ask for a lawyer. Under no circumstances attempt to do anything without the presence of a lawyer. These include signing documents, making any statements, or making any decisions.

You are also allowed to make one call and any calls made to your lawyer will not be supervised however other calls might be listened into.

If You Believe Your Rights Were Violated

Be sure to record everything you can, such as patrol car numbers, officers’ badges, their agency, the contact information of witnesses, and anything of note. 

Take pictures of any injuries that you sustain and seek immediate medical attention. Then send your complaint, anonymously if you wish to, to the civilian’s complain board or internal affairs division of the concerned agency.

Talking to a Lawyer:

Unless you were charged with driving under the influence or possessing prohibited substances, it is unlikely that you will likely need an attorney. If that is the case, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide your case and determine whether a motion to suppress evidence is applicable.

Conclusion

Being pulled over by the police can be a scary and frustrating experience, given the widespread news of police brutality and racial profiling. However, it is essential to remember that you are a citizen with rights, not a criminal. The key is to be cooperative and behave politely with the police and refrain from any form of hostility. Remember that most officers try to follow protocol and maintain their duty and may not have the time to explain all their actions. This article highlights reasons for their behavior and how to prepare accordingly. Nevertheless, the best prevention is avoiding violating traffic rules that may get you pulled over. Always drive safely and responsibly!

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