What To Do When You Get Pulled Over

Posted on Jun 13, 2018 in Criminal Defense, DUI/DWI, Local Issues, NOPD, Speeding Tickets, Uncategorized

You’re driving along minding your own business when you see those red and blue flashing lights pop up in your rearview. For almost anyone, getting pulled over by the police can be an anxiety-inducing situation. It’s important to know your rights, what you do and don’t have to say, in order to most effectively comply with the officer at a traffic stop.

The first thing you want to do when you recognize that a police officer is pulling you over is locate the nearest safe place to pull over. Don’t lead the officer on a wild goose chase, but do make sure you locate a place to pull over that’s off the road and clear from direct traffic. The spot should be a public place where there will be other people around, preferably well-lit, like a gas station or parking lot.

After parking turn the interior lights of your car on. This allows the officer to see you inside the vehicle as they approach. Do not immediately start searching for your license and registration. Instead, keep both hands on the steering wheel. Police officers have the right to protect themselves, and if they see you rummaging about inside your vehicle they may think you are searching for a weapon, and could become hostile or treat you as a threat.

When the officer comes up to your window they will ask for your license, registration, and insurance. If you have a gun in the car you are legally obligated to inform the officer of this fact. Do this calmly and politely, before you remove your hands from the steering wheel. This is best practice for your own safety as well as the officer’s. Before retrieving your license and the rest, inform the officer of what you’re doing verbally. “I’m going to reach get my insurance and registration out of the glove box now, Officer.” This may seem a little silly, but it’s best to err on the side of caution, by informing the officer you demonstrate your willingness to comply.

One of the most important things you can do to help yourself at a traffic stop is to treat the officer with respect and courtesy. The tone of the interaction can have a huge impact on what happens during the traffic stop, and it’s important to set the precedent early. Civil interaction and compliance will help things run smoothly, whereas if you are questioning the officer’s intent or refusing his requests the officer may begin to suspect you have something to hide. If the officer makes a request that you are not comfortable with, it is okay to explain why, but do so in a courteous manner. Remain calm and demonstrate to the officer that you intend to work with them.

There may be some instances in which you do not wish to comply with an officer’s requests. You are within your legal rights to refuse to give any information or answer any questions as you see fit. The Fifth Amendment protects your right to remain silent—in  terms of giving information verbally or otherwise. If the police ask to search your vehicle, you are within your rights to refuse, and the police do not legally have the right to search your vehicle without a warrant. However, this once again goes back to the tone of the situation. If the police officer feels you are being difficult, or that you have something to hide, they will respond accordingly, and there is a good chance you could be detained or arrested.

If you get pulled over and you’ve had a few drinks you are not required to take a breathalyzer test. Under the Implied Consent Law, if you refuse to take the test you will be taken to jail. Legally speaking, however, if you have been drinking it may be in your best interest to refuse the test, even if it means a trip downtown.

Remember, in an interaction with a police officer anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. Do not say anything to incriminate yourself. Remain courteous and polite, and comply with the officer’s requests as much as possible. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or problematic situation with an officer, or if you are being arrested or detained, it is a good idea to ask for the officer’s name and, if possible, their badge number. This information can be useful if and when you have to go to court.

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