There are a variety of reasons that a cop might pull you over – speeding, reckless driving, or broken brake lights are just a few.
But whatever the reason, being pulled over can be a nerve-wracking experience, even if you were doing nothing wrong. And your behavior can make a big difference in the situation.
Not sure how to behave when a law enforcement officer pulls you over?
Then you’re in the right place. More than 50,000 people in the United States get pulled over every single day. Read on to find out exactly what you should do if you get pulled over by law enforcement.
1. Pull Over Safely
If the police car signals for you to pull over then you should do this safely as soon as possible.
Not all police cars are easy to identify. But if an unmarked police car starts flashing its police lights then you should take this as a signal to pull over.
Use your signals to let them know you are going to do this but do not put your arms out of the car to signal to them. You should also avoid making any sudden or erratic moves, such as speeding up or pulling into the left lane. This could make it look like you’re trying to drive away.
There are around 68,000 police chases each year in the USA and you should avoid one of these at all costs. A chase could at the very least end in a more severe penalty. But a large number of them also result in fatalities, both for those involved and for innocent bystanders.
Once you’ve pulled over, turn off your engine, open your window, and put your hands on the steering wheel. This shows any officers that it is safe to approach your car.
2. Provide Your Documents When Asked
Wait for the officer to give you instructions and let them speak first. Immediately questioning why they’ve pulled you over can come across as confrontational.
They will usually ask you to provide documentation. You will need to show your driver’s license, insurance, and car registration.
Keep your hands on the wheel and let them know where it is in the car before you get it. Once they have given you permission, slowly and calmly get your documents out.
3. Stay in the Vehicle After Being Pulled Over
You should stay inside your car for the whole time unless an officer tells you otherwise.
This is extremely important, even if you have to wait for a long time, as officers will take you leaving your vehicle as a confrontational sign. Or they might think you’re trying to make a run for it.
If they do ask you to step out of the car, they might carry out a pat-down search of you. You should comply with this but for more information on pat-down searches, get in touch with a traffic ticket attorney.
4. Be Respectful but Non-Committal
While talking with a police officer make sure you remain respectful. It can be a stressful, worrying, or frustrating time but try to keep your cool nevertheless.
Give short, direct answers such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and don’t go into lots of detail. The less you talk, the less likely you are to say something that could get you into trouble. And this can really help if you have to hire a traffic ticket lawyer further down the line.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” is a common question, which you can just reply “no” to. If an officer asks if you know how fast you were going then you should say “yes I do” without offering any more information.
Don’t let yourself get into an argument with the officer. If they say something you don’t agree with then saying “I see” is a great way to respond neutrally.
You and any of your passengers have the right to remain silent. If you choose to do this, simply say “I am asserting my right to remain silent”.
5. Comply With Legal Procedure but Know Your Rights
The right to remain silent isn’t the only right you have. While you should comply with any legal requirements, keep in mind that there are some things you can stop the officers from doing.
They have a right to ask to see your documentation and you should show this to them when asked. If they ask you to get out of the car you should also do this.
But you don’t have to speak to them or let them search your car. An officer must ask to search a vehicle and you can simply refuse politely.
If you do let an officer carry out a search then you are also within your rights to film the search. This can be useful evidence if you find yourself Googling ‘traffic violation lawyer near me’ further down the line.
6. Remain Silent if They Arrest You
It’s very rare that a minor traffic offensive will end in an arrest. The majority of minor offenses will result in tickets or court dates, which a traffic ticket attorney near you will be able to help with.
If the police do arrest you though, it’s extremely important to remain silent until you have a lawyer present. This is because the police can use anything that you say as evidence in a court case. You don’t want something that you said in the heat of the moment to come back and haunt you.
At this point, it’s a good idea to get a traffic lawyer on your side. But before you start Googling ‘traffic ticket lawyer near me’, check out our tips on what to look for in your lawyer.
The Bottom Line
At best, getting pulled over is an annoying addition to your day that most people can do without. But at worst you could be facing a fine or even jail time.