What Should a Driver Do When Stopped by the Police?
Understandably, most people start to sweat and get nervous when pulled over by the police. Even though the police are trying to keep the community safe, it is nerve-wracking when you see the blue lights behind you. It is also dangerous for officers. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, traffic stops are one of the leading causes of police deaths. Many officers have been killed over the years by gunfire during traffic stops. Officers also face the danger of getting hit by passing vehicles.
More importantly, drivers are at risk when there is a police encounter. Sometimes the police misinterpret the behavior of a driver during a traffic stop. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we remain safe during a traffic stop. We cannot assume that a police officer will understand our actions. To protect ourselves from the police we need to follow certain rules.
To make the experience go as best as possible, here are some suggestions:
Be polite and pull over as soon as possible:
This begins by pulling over to the side of the road or into a parking lot when you notice the officer signaling you. If you cannot pull over right away, put your flashers on and slow down to let the officer know you see his lights and that you plan on getting over. Turn on your hazard lights.
Put your hands where the officer can see them:
It is also best to put your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. This is for the safety of the officer. It is also to make sure the officer keeps you safe from a possible police over-reaction
Provide necessary information:
Officers will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. It is in your best interest to comply with the request. However, you do not have to provide any other information that could convict you. Have your documents in your hand when the officer approaches your car. Vocalize each movement. For example, you can say, “I am reaching for my license and registration.”
Let the officer know if you are carrying a gun or a weapon:
If your weapon is in the glove compartment with your registration and insurance, it is best to inform the officer, and do not reach for anything unless instructed to do so by the officer.
Don't be a jerk:
No one likes to get a ticket but calling the officer names, being rude, or threatening him will not get you anywhere. It is in your best interest to be polite and respectful. Even when an officer is wrong, remember that is why a person has a right to a hearing in court.
Do not allow for the officer to search your car:
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitutional protects you from officers searching your vehicle without a warrant. Vocalize clearly that you do not consent to a search. Consent from you negates the need for a warrant. Be polite but do not agree to a warrantless search!
Determine whether or not you can leave:
For a regular traffic stop, the officer should only detain you for what is necessary to conduct the business. If the officer has already finished, but begins to ask you questions unrelated to the stop, ask him, “Officer am I free to go now?” Do not let officers go on a separate fishing expedition to see what else they could charge you with. By asking if you are free to leave, it will force the officer to decide whether he feels there is probable cause to detain you further, arrest you, or let you go.
Keep your mouth shut:
Never answer police questions outside of providing required documents such as your driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration. Answering questions such as from where you are coming or how much have you had to drink should never be answered.
Stay in your vehicle:
Do not step out of the car and approach the police officer. Remain in the vehicle and be patient. Again, do nothing to make the police officer nervous. Keep in mind that this officer knows nothing about you, therefore remaining calm and communicating clearly and politely is in your best interests.
Understand the police are there to enforce the law:
Remember, the police have a job to do, and it is not to necessarily treat you fairly. The police should be fair but also have a duty to enforce the law. Any protracted police encounter would surely imply that you are at risk of being arrested.
If you have any other questions about police interactions, check out our post about how you should never speak to the Police. There is never a reason to voluntarily have a police encounter unless it is to report that you are a victim of a crime. Even as a crime victim, limit your discussion with the police to the report of the crime. They must perform an investigation when your report a crime. You have no duty to help the police enforce the law.
If you have received a Georgia Traffic Ticket or were searched by an officer without a warrant, you need a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. Our office has over 40 years of criminal defense experience, and we are here 24/7 to assist with your case. We understand that your need for advice does not always happen during regular working hours, so we are here nights, weekends, and holidays for you! Call 24/7, or contract us online. Call a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today.