What to do If You Get Pulled Over By A Police Officer
Written by Cooper & Friedman on October 19, 2015
Police officers can sometimes be intimidating, especially for drivers getting pulled over. Acting in a responsible manner and treating officers with respect will go a long way, even if you are pulled over for a minor infraction. When a police officer signals you to pull over on the side of the road, it is important that you recognize and respond to the officer’s lights, siren and/or loudspeakers in order to quickly move to a safe location. (Failure to comply can lead to a more serious citation of failure to yield to an emergency vehicle).
As reported by statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, speeding tends to be the most common reason drivers report being pulled over. In 2008, nearly 18 million people 16 years or older (or 8.4% of drivers) indicated that their most recent police contact was as a driver being pulled over for some kind of traffic stop.
Some of the most common traffic stops happen due to speeding, distracted driving including texting, driving that is considered hazardous (for example, stop sign violations, tailgating and dangerous lane changes), and vehicle violations like expired tags, burned-out lights, and missing license plates. At some point in time, many of us are pulled over by a police officer while driving.
What to do if you Get Pulled Over By Police – 7 Things to Remember
While it is hopeful that you won’t have to use these tips, in the event that you are pulled over by a police officer, here are seven key things to remember.
- Find A Safe Location To Pull Over: After a police officer has indicated for you to pull over with his or her lights and siren, it is important to find a safe location away from traffic. This may be more challenging if you are traveling on a busy interstate or are in the middle of rush hour traffic. Use your turn signal to indicate where you are directing your vehicle and continue to reach a safe destination to make a stop. Simply stay calm, and drive toward the shoulder to steer clear from other traffic in the area.
- Keep Your Hands on the Wheel: As drivers approach the vehicle, they often have one hand on their gun for protection. By placing both hands on the wheel, you are signaling to the officer that you are not dangerous and you are safe to approach. This is also used as a sign of respect and understanding for the officer. It might be helpful as well to cut off your engine.
- Wait and Confirm: Do not start rummaging through your vehicle looking for your license and registration. This sends the police officer the wrong message. Wait to be asked for your identification materials and then proceed to recover these documents. If you have been pulled over by an unidentified vehicle or an officer in plainclothes, it is okay to ask for his or her photo identification and badge.
- You Have the Right to Remain Silent: You must provide the correct information including car insurance, registration and your name, when asked, but you do not have to provide any more information. Any other statements can be answered with, “I choose not to answer that question.”
- You Can Give Consent for Searches: It is up to you to decide whether you allow the officer to search your car and yourself. However, if you are placed under arrest or if the police officer has reasonable cause to search your car, your rights are denied.
- You Can Ask Questions: It is important for you to understand any infractions or charges placed against you. Understand the details of why you were pulled over so you can deal with these issues. If you were pulled over and not arrested, you have the right to ask if you are free to go. After you have been granted permission to leave, calmly turn your car back on and continue on your journey.
- Remain Calm and Polite: As much of an inconvenience as it may be to you, try and keep your cool when being pulled over. While getting pulled over is never an enjoyable experience, it does not help if you become angry or irritated. Acting rude or aggressive may upset the officer and may make matters worse.
Getting pulled over by a police officer isn’t the worse thing in the world. In fact most people experience this at some point in their driving history. Knowing what to do if you get pulled over includes understanding both your responsibilities and your rights. It’s also important to keep in mind that specific laws may vary state by state. And different rules apply at checkpoints or if you are entering the U.S. either by land, water, or via an airport.
If you think your rights may have been violated by a law enforcement officer, you may choose to seek help from a civil rights attorney. The lawyers at Cooper and Friedman Attorneys at Law have over 45 years combined experience helping people who have had their fundamental rights violated by law enforcement. For more information or a free consultation, call 502-459-7555 now.