Getting pulled over while driving can be daunting and stressful. For a lot of American citizens, it can be incredibly difficult and even scary. You shouldn’t have to worry about being pulled over, but a lot of people don’t know their rights when it comes to traffic stops. This can cause a lot of stress and worry when you do get pulled over.
Today, we’re going to share with you 10 things to do if you get pulled over by law enforcement. You should be able to speak to an officer without letting anything escalate. The best way to do that is by knowing your rights, and knowing how lawyers recommend handling roadside checks.
Stay calm and be polite
We know it’s scary to get pulled over, even for a routine check. It can be even more daunting if you’re a felon or already have a driving conviction like a DUI. Although a cop can’t legally arrest you for a bad attitude, a cop can take your attitude as failure to comply and cooperate. This means they could legally arrest you for obstruction of justice. Just remind yourself to stay calm, and not to jump to any conclusions.
You don’t have to pull over until it’s safe
You should still pull over if an officer is requesting you do so, but you do not have to until it is safe. Keep driving the legal speed limit, and look for a safe side-street or pull-out to park in. This may take a while if you’re on a busy street or a highway. Use hand signals to let the officer know that you see them, but want a safer space to pull into.
An officer needs probable cause
Even if it’s just from speeding or a burnt-out tail light, an officer needs probable cause to pull you over. You can also ask why you’re being pulled over if you’re unsure as to why.
The officer needs to have suspicion of illegal activity in order to pull you over. If you believe the officer is discriminating against you, you are within your rights to record all interactions with the officer.
The important thing to remember is to remain calm and be polite, despite how they’re treating you.
Recording the interaction could further help your case if you wish to take legal action against the officer for discrimination.
You can record everything
There are an increasing number of cases where an officer has mishandled a traffic stop. Many drivers were able to prove an officer conducted illegal activity by providing video evidence of the encounter. Be sure to keep a record of everything else such as:
- Why you’ve been pulled over
- Where you were signaled to pull over and where you stopped
- What the officer asked you and other people in your vehicle
- The officer’s name and badge number
- Things the officer requested such as a vehicle search
You have the right to remain silent
If you believe that an officer is asking you incriminating questions, you do not have to answer them. Keep your answers to a minimum, or only answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to any of the questions given. This is especially important if you’re under the age of 18, or have previous charges on your record.
You do have to give the officer your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Some states require that drivers provide some other basic identifying questions such as when you were born or your address. However, passengers in the car do not have to provide their IDs. Officers can ask them questions, but they legally do not have to answer any questions about themselves.
You don’t have to take a breathalyzer test
It may not look great if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, but they can’t force you to take one. You do have to stop at police checkpoints and roadblocks if you’re selected. If the officer does find proof of you driving under the influence such as an open container, or the smell of alcohol and drugs, they can ask you to step outside to search you and your vehicle.
There are some states like New York where it’s illegal to refuse a roadside test. Other states like Oklahoma can also charge you with an additional aggravated DUI charge if you refuse to take a test and your blood alcohol level is higher than 0.15.
You don’t have to step out of your vehicle
If there is no probable reason for you to exit the vehicle, you don’t have to leave your seat. Most officers may ask you to exit the vehicle because they suspect you’re concealing weapons, are driving under the influence, or feel as though you’re participating in illegal activity.
To do this, they need to see “in plain view” that there is evidence of illegal activity in your vehicle. This could mean the smell of marijuana, an open container, blood in your vehicle, and even injuries on yourself. If you are asked to step out of the vehicle, you can ask the officer why. This can be useful if you want to avoid a tense situation by refusing, but want a record of their reasoning if you’re recording them.
An officer cannot search your vehicle
Similarly to when they ask you to exit a vehicle, an officer can’t search your vehicle without probable cause or consent. They need to be able to see in plain view that there is illegal activity, or have a warrant to search your vehicle. Police officers also require your consent before they can search your vehicle. Do not try to hide or destroy anything that could be considered illegal or suspicious. If an officer catches you doing this, you could receive an additional charge for obstructing justice. If you are caught with anything illegal or incriminating, stay calm and let the officer know that you will not answer any questions until you can speak with a lawyer.
Know the traffic stop laws in your state
Every state has different laws on what an officer can and cannot do at a roadside stop. We’ve already mentioned how different the laws on roadside breathalyzer tests can be. To ensure you know every right you have as a driver, take some time to go over your state laws and rights.
You can protest an illegal stop
You have the right to ask the police if you’re free to go. If they refuse, you can ask why and ask if you’re being detained. If you’ve been stopped by an officer that doesn’t appear to have any probable cause and is violating your rights as a driver, you can protest the stop after the encounter. Remember to stay calm and polite. Record everything and remain silent until you can speak with a lawyer. A lawyer can help you not only get out of any ridiculous charges, but can also help you receive compensation for the turmoil the officer put you through.
Taking Legal Action
Don’t let law enforcement officers violate your rights as a driver and a citizen. Having a good lawyer can help you get out of anything that was not rightfully charged on you, or others in your vehicle. If you were unrightfully pulled over and had your rights violated, call one of our Premier Partners at MyCaseHelper to get legal advice from a trusted attorney.