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How to React When Stopped By the Police

It’s common for many people to get anxious when pulled over by a police officer. When a law enforcement officer pulls you over, what you do and say can affect any legal proceedings which may follow. Similarly, the police officer is also in the same situation: he or she has no idea whether you pose a threat. However, you can take steps to reduce anxiety levels and ensure the stop doesn’t turn into something serious. Here’s how:

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1. Never Consent to a Search

Sometimes, an officer may ask to search your car. Don’t consent to a search! It’s challenging to counter any evidence found in your car if you consent to a search. Note: getting a copy of a police report is also crucial when you want to follow a claim. Also, if an officer has genuine grounds to search your car, he or she will do so whether you give permission or not. In most cases, an officer will ask for your consent to search your car.

2. Don’t Say Anything Yet!

When you’re pulled over, place the car in park and switch off the ignition. Next, you want to roll down your window and place your hands on top of the steering wheel where they’re visible. If it’s at night, turn on the interior car light. Move slowly and carefully and don’t make any funny movements – this can give an officer probable cause to search your car.

You also want to avoid digging through your glove box looking for your driver’s license until you’re asked to do so. The officer might think you’re reaching for a weapon and act duly.

3. Step Out of the Car When Asked to

If you’re pulled over for an alleged traffic violation, an officer has the right to insist you get out of your car. This also includes additional passengers in the car. It’s in your best interest to get out if asked or instructed to do so. In short, follow the officer’s instructions but start with the assumption that you should remain in your car.

Similarly, you should also assume the officer is on alert: they are ready to interpret a failure to adhere to instructions as a threat. If an officer has any reason to suspect you’re dangerous, he or she has a right to conduct a “pat-down” search.

4. Conversing with an Officer

Being impolite and hostile has led to many problems with law enforcement officers. Additionally, saying more than necessary can land you in trouble. Allow the police officer to do the talking, responding where appropriate. For instance, when asked to hand over your driver’s license, say something in the lines of “Sure” or “Okay.”

In most cases, if an officer pulls you over, they have decided whether to give you a ticket before approaching you. If you’re rude, you might push an officer to give you a ticket to which they weren’t planning. It can be challenging knowing what to say to an officer’s queries. However, whatever you do, never argue.

5. Keep Everything Simple

Avoid lying to a police officer, but keep your answers to questions brief. For instance, the officer might ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” If you answer, you should always reply with a “No.” In the same fashion, if an officer asks, “Do you know how fast you were driving?” the ideal answer is, “Yes.” The officer will tell you how fast you were driving but avoid arguing. Follow along with the conversation with polite, responsive answers such as “I understand” or “I see.” Additionally, avoid saying anything substantive.

6. What If Your Rights are violated?

If you’re arrested or detained, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Don’t provide any excuses or explanations. Never say anything, sign anything, or make decisions without an attorney. If an officer violated your rights, record everything you remember. This includes officers’ badges, car registration plates, which agency the police officers were from, and other additional details. Finally, file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs board.

Remember, a law enforcement officer never knows what to expect when they pull over a driver. Avoid letting your emotions or sudden unaccounted-for movements introduce tension into the issue. An officer will likely listen to what you have to say if you cooperate. Finally, seek help from a lawyer who handles traffic issues if you’re ticketed or arrested.

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