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What To Do and What Not To Do When Pulled Over by a Police Officer

Posted Friday, February 9, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

*Don’t Pull Over Until it is Safe*When you see those flashing lights behind you, don’t pull over until you have a safe place to do so with room to exit your vehicle if necessary. Areas NOT to pull over include: a highway or road with no shoulder; a windy road at night or high-traffic areas. While you do not want to continue driving for too long, you should hold off on pulling over until it is reasonably safe to do so. This is safer not only for you, but also for the police officer.

To let the officer you intend to pull over, I recommend putting on your blinker and driving slowly. This way they will know you aren’t trying to flee, and are simply trying to find a safe space to pull over.

*What Should I Do Once I’m Parked on the Side of the Road?*Stay calm. Just because you’ve been pulled over does not mean you are in trouble. Right off the bat, I recommend turning off your engine, and if it is dark out, turning on your dome light. As you see the officer approaching, roll down your window and place your hands on the wheel so the officer can see them as he or she approaches. Don’t start gathering papers or reaching for the glove box until they arrive and instruct you.

Once the officer has arrived, be sure you are moving deliberately and announcing any time you are reaching for something. You don’t want the officer to misinterpret any of your movements, turning a potentially small traffic stop into a catastrophic misunderstanding.

*Done Leave Your Car*Unless an officer explicitly tells you to get out of your car, do not leave your vehicle. Exiting your car may make the officer interpret your movements as aggressive, leading to an escalated situation that simply does not need to happen.

*Don’t Argue With or Be Rude To The Officer*Nobody wants to be issued a citation, particularly if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong. Often, the stress and frustration caused by being pulled over and questioned by a police officer will cause drivers to be rude or argumentative to an officer.Arguing with the officer, or disrespecting them in any way, could lead to them getting frustrated and escalating the situation. This could lead to increased fines, new charges, or even an unwarranted arrest.

Being respectful on the other hand, could lead to the officer being more understanding of your predicament and letting you off with a warning for minor offenses.

*If the Encounter Begins Escalating from a Traffic Stop to Something More (DUI INVESTIGATION) the Less You Say the Better.*Remember that everything you say to the officer during the traffic stop is admissible in court, so anything you say can and likely will be used against you when attempting to fight the ticket. But once it becomes clear the stop is more than just a traffic stop, beware of everything you say. Often police officers will try to coax you into a discussion or invite you to “prove” your innocence. Don’t do it.

*Don’t Submit to any Field Sobriety Tests*These roadside exercises are difficult for most people regardless of whether they have been drinking. There is no penalty for refusing them unlike the breath test and you should never submit to one, even if you are stone sober.

*Don’t Consent to a Search*In order for an officer to search your car without a warrant, they’ll need either probable cause or your consent.
Even if you know you’ve done nothing wrong or are hiding anything, I still recommend not consenting to a search of your vehicle or person. They could uncover something you don’t remember leaving in your car, and there is no real benefit from letting the officer conduct the search.

Refusing a search is your fourth amendment right, and you should not feel pressure to allow the officer to conduct the search if you are not comfortable.

*If the Officer has a Warrant*If the officer obtains a warrant, you must let them search your vehicle. Do not put up a fight. Make sure to ask to see the warrant first.

Keep in mind as well that anything the officer finds during the search, even if it has nothing to do with what the warrant is for, the “plain view” rule still applies. This means anything else incriminating found can still be used against you in court.

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