What To Do When You Get Pulled Over By PoliceWritten on January 13, 2014
Ah that sinking feeling. The one you get when you see an officer pull up behind you, turn on the blue lights and chirp his siren. Instantly, as that moment of stress and sometimes, slight panic ensue, we often ask ourselves, “what do I do?”
Many people don’t realize that according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, traffic related incidents are the leading cause of police officer fatalities in the US. What does this mean to you? It means that the officer pulling you over may very likely be just as nervous as you are. The key here is to remain calm and remember a few simple steps that can help both you and the officer feel at ease in order to help you obtain the best possible outcome.
When you first see the officer attempting to pull you over:
Turn on your flashers
Pull over into a safe area
Turn off the engine
Turn on your dome light
Roll down your window
Place your hands on the steering wheel at the 10 & 2 positions
By doing these things you are acknowledging your compliance with the officer and helping him to feel at ease by ensuring his safety as well. He will be able to see that he can approach your window without fear. He will be able to clearly see you in a safe environment and understand that you are not going to make an attempt to flee or harm him. He will also see that you have regard for his safety in executing his job.
As the officer approaches your window, remember to keep your hands on the wheel so that he can clearly see them. Do not reach for your license or registration until he requests them because he doesn’t know if you could potentially have a weapon or firearm. Do not get out of the car unless he asks either.
Be polite and civil. We all have bad days and police officers are no different. Being polite when speaking to them can go a long way in helping you to avert worse or possibly multiple citations.
Don’t argue with the officer. If you plan on fighting your citation then do so in the arena meant to contest it, which is a courtroom. The side of the road is no place to argue the merits of your case and could potentially result in self-incrimination. Do not apologize. The officer can only ask questions relevant to his stated reason for the stop however, you need not answer anything.
Remember, you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. An officer cannot search your vehicle without your consent unless he has clear probable cause such as smelling a substance or seeing an open bottle, etc. If he does not have probable cause then it is usually best to politely decline the search. Doing so does not imply any wrongdoing and is your right under the U.S. Constitution.
If you are issued a warning or citation, politely sign the citation. Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt. It is simply verification that you received the citation from the officer and that you plan to either pay the ticket or show up in court on the designated date. If you plan on fighting the citation, then you should contact an attorney immediately in order to understand your options well before the court date.
Lastly, once the officer has returned to his vehicle, be safe and careful when merging back into traffic. The last thing you want to do is get pulled over again by the same officer for improper driving. This could be a much more difficult experience than the first if you aren’t careful so take your time, relax, and carefully rejoin the rest of your fellow travelers.
The key throughout this entire process is to remember, be calm, be polite, and don’t make any sudden movements or actions that could startle the officer. By following these tips you might be pleasantly surprised a time or two at how much better your day can go.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended by any means to be considered or used as legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice pertaining to any particular matter or potential charge you may have.