No one likes to see the red and blue flashing lights in their rearview mirror. But when you find yourself in this position, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities when pulled over by police.
Here’s a look at the things to keep in mind if and when you are pulled over:
Pull over safely. When you see the emergency lights or hear the siren, pull over the right side of the road quickly, but safely. Make sure to use your turn signal to indicate that you are cooperating, and pull over as far over to the right as possible so that the officer can come to your window without worrying for his or her own safety in traffic. Keep in mind that the sooner you pull over and the more you cooperate at the outset, the better mood the officer will be in when he or she gets to your window.
Be courteous and stay calm. Once you are pulled over, roll down your window all the way and make sure your hands are in sight. Turning on your interior light can also put the officer more at ease. Wait until the officer asks for your driver’s license and vehicle registration before reaching for the glovebox or other areas of the car. Do not try to argue with the officer, run away, interfere with the officer’s duty, or resist in any way. Staying cool, calm, and collected will give you the best chance of a somewhat positive outcome.
Stay quiet (if you want to). You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to exercise that right, tell the officer so.
Don’t incriminate yourself. Many police officers start out by asking if you know why you were pulled over, but you do not have to respond—in fact, it’s typically better not to answer. For example, say a police officer pulls you over for speeding. When he asks if you know why you were pulled over, you say “Yes, I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt.” Now the officer has grounds to write you a ticket for speeding as well as not wearing a seatbelt. The best way to avoid incriminating yourself is to say you are unaware of why you are being pulled over.
Know your rights when it comes to search and seizure. You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings when you are pulled over. The police are allowed to pat you down if they suspect you are carrying a weapon, but beyond that, you have the right to refuse a search. Do not physically resist the pat down or a search, but know that a police officer may not search the vehicle without your consent unless there are extenuating circumstances. For example, a police officer may search your vehicle if he or she observed you trying to hide something in the car, throw something out the window, or believes you are involved in some sort of criminal action. An officer is also allowed to open the door/search the vehicle if he or she sees illegal objects in plain view, such as an open beer bottle or illicit drugs.