Being pulled over is not always a pretty experience. While most police officers seek your interest and are only ensuring the law is complied with, there have been many instances where stops have gone awry.
Whether you are stopped for less serious offenses like traffic violations or more serious ones like driving under the influence, you need to know what to do when the police stop you. Here are three tips that can ensure you’re not at a loss in such situations.
Routine stops can quickly escalate into unpleasant experiences, particularly when you show signs of anxiety and fretfulness. Generally, police personnel are trained to be suspicious of people whose behavior is unnatural.
Remain calm. Don’t fret or show any signs of worry. Don’t speed away, instead, find a safe place to park and wait for the officer to approach. Place your hands on the steering wheel and avoid making any sudden dashes or furtive movements.
Even if the stop feels like an intrusion and you can’t seem to figure out what would occasion it, be polite and give a listening ear to the police officer. Retired NYPD detective Harry Houck puts it well: “Any level-headed person who gets pulled over does what a police officer tells you, and there won’t be any problems.’’
Know Your Rights
Your rights don’t cease to exist just because you’ve been stopped by a person in uniform. Officers are allowed some discretion in their operation, for instance, search the person and the car, administering a breathalyzer, and other routine procedures. Your rights during traffic stops differ from state to state, however, here are some general tips you can keep in mind:
- You have the right to remain silent. Don’t hesitate to invoke the fifth amendment and say nothing. Whatever you end up saying is likely to be used against you in court, so if you realize that talking would compromise you, remain silent.
- In many cases, the officer may not search your car without your permission. So if you’re not comfortable, you may refuse a search. However, the officer may still search you or your car under reasonable suspicion. If you don’t have anything to hide, you can allow the search.
Document the Encounter
In the law courts, the “name of the game is evidence.” Whatever you say, as long as you cannot back it up with hard evidence, is likely to be treated as speculation. If you feel the officer has abused your rights in any way – whether verbal or physical – write it down as soon as the encounter is over.
The exact details may become blurry over time. If you can set up video evidence, even better. The presence of a device capturing video evidence would help officers comport themselves and give you leverage. However, employ filming when you notice untoward activities or potential abuse of power. You can also call a third party – from lawyers, friends to family members – so that you can have someone who can back up your story.
There’s nothing as disheartening for a driver as seeing the blue and red light of a police car and sirens blaring. Such encounters can sometimes become uncomfortable. That’s why you need to know exactly what to do when a policeman stops you. Listed above are three tips that can help ensure that your encounter with officers goes without a hitch.