I Was Stopped by an Officer While I was Driving: What Should I Do?

One of the things that many of us are most afraid of is being stopped by police while driving.

Seeing the police lights blinking in your rearview mirror can be disorienting. You may panic and try to speed off or make driving mistakes out of fear.

It is important to know your rights and how to deal with the traffic police.

Here are six tips that will help you the next time you are faced with a sudden police stop.

1. Stop immediately you see the police behind you

When you see the police behind you or hear blaring sirens, the first thing you should do is to slow down your vehicle and determine whether the police are asking you to stop. If yes, pull over to the side of the road.

Although you may be anxious to get to the side of the road as quickly as possible, remember to adhere to all traffic rules, such as signaling and changing lanes correctly.

This will spare you from any additional traffic offenses that the police may add to the offense that they have identified. They could also have noticed a problem with your car, such as a broken tail light that you are unaware of. 

However, do not ignore the police because you feel you have not committed a traffic violation. It is also possible that it is just a routine traffic stop.

Stopping when the police signal you to do so shows them you are ready to cooperate. 

2. Stay in your vehicle until the police officer comes to you

Although you may be eager to find out what the police officer wants from you, remain in the vehicle until they come to you.

An abrupt approach can be perceived as a threat, endangering your safety.

Turn off your vehicle and wait for the officer. Do not reach for anything as this may be interpreted as an attempt to reach for a weapon or hide illegal items such as drugs.

Inform the police of any weapons on your person or in your vehicle during a police stop. This could be in your pocket, glove compartment, under your car seat, or in a bag.

As long as you have a license for the weapon, you don’t need to be afraid. The police officer may verify ownership.

3. Place your hand on the vehicle steering wheel

Once you turn off your vehicle, put on the interior cabin light if it’s dark, roll down your car window, and discard any cigarette or gum. Place both hands on the steering wheel as you talk to the officer.

Do all these things slowly. Sudden movements can make the police suspicious.

Although you may be tempted to reach into your glove compartment for your license or any other means of identification, that can wait.

Placing your hands on the steering wheel signifies that you are not about to do anything rash.

Lighting up your car cabin will lower the suspicions of the police officer concerning you because they can see you as they approach the vehicle.

These actions will increase your chances of favorably interacting with the traffic police.

4. Wait for instructions from the police officer

Although you may be anxious to talk to the police officer and find out why you have been stopped, wait until they talk to you.

They will probably;

  • Greet you cordially
  • Ask for identification documents
  • Request for your vehicle registration documents
  • Inform you of any traffic violations
  • Instruct you to get out of the vehicle
  • Conduct a body search
  • Search the interior of your vehicle

You must be ready for all these things and avoid being difficult. Try to answer questions calmly.

If you are outside your vehicle, stand a few feet away from the police officer as they talk to you or peruse your documents. If you are still in your vehicle, keep your hands on the steering wheel. This gives the officer enough space to do their job without feeling threatened by you.

Wait for the officer to peruse your identification, finish checking your vehicle, and tell you why they stopped you before asking any questions.

“Yes” or “No” responses are best. You may incriminate yourself if you talk too much.

Some officers may try to incriminate you by getting you to admit to a traffic violation. So, if you are unsure about how to proceed, keep quiet.

If you feel unfairly treated, wait until you can talk to a reputable lawyer, who is better equipped to deal with the police and the law.

5. Expect the police to access information on previous arrests

You can expect the police to verify any information about you, such as prior arrest and traffic violations on the dispatch radio.

Be especially careful if you have previously had any bad interactions with the police, such as acting disorderly during an arrest or stop.

Traffic police are especially vigilant against previous offenders and will arrest you if you show any aggression or rude behavior.

Always behave with care; your conduct may influence the officer to let you off with a warning instead of a ticket.

It may also keep you from suffering an injury. According to research, many people are accidentally shot by police during stopovers for minor mistakes such as struggling during arrest.

6. Refuse any field sobriety tests

Although you may be afraid to face a traffic police officer if you’ve been drinking, resist the urge to speed away. Stop and calmly wait for the officer.

Do not admit you’ve been drinking when the police officer asks whether you are sober. Admitting you’ve been driving under the influence will only lead to charges.

The police officer may insist on a breathalyzer test or blood test if they are suspicious of you. You have a right to refuse a field sobriety test.

However, under the Implied Consent Law, your driver’s license may be revoked or suspended if you refuse a blood or breathalyzer test. So do not refuse to take these tests.

They may work to your advantage because they provide more conclusive evidence than field sobriety tests and will be of help if you are sober.

Why is it important to handle police interactions with care?

You may wonder why you should be so careful when dealing with the police when they pull you over?

It’s essential because police officers are always on the offensive when it comes to handling drivers on the road.

Traffic officers know that some vehicles harbor criminals who can assault, injure, or shoot them dead. So, every person they stop or talk to in the line of duty is handled with suspicion.

Police officers are also trained to follow specific procedures during a stop, arrest, or questioning. These include how to stay safe when dealing with suspects, how to perform weapon and drug searches, and how to question suspects.

You may want to do things your way, but they are legally obligated to follow these procedures.

So, even if you think a police officer seems a bit serious, rude, or focused on arresting you, wait for them to perform their duty.

The best thing you can do is note everything they do and take any complaints you have about their conduct to traffic court.

Final thoughts on what to do when you are stopped by a traffic officer

You may follow all these suggestions while dealing with the traffic police and still get arrested or get a ticket.

This may be because you were really violating a traffic law or the police officer feels you are guilty of another crime.

Avoid exhibiting any rude or violent behavior towards the police officer. Keep your complaints for your lawyer, who knows the traffic laws and is likely to defend you successfully against any false charges.

If you handle your arrest with care, as we’ve outlined in this article, you will increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome from the traffic stop and the courts.

Author: Kelly Hanks

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