What Should I Do If I Am Stopped By Police?

Whether you are being pulled over by law enforcement or stopped by a police officer on the street, an interaction with law enforcement is a stressful experience. While it may seem like law enforcement holds all of the power in a traffic stop, you have equally powerful constitutional rights and protections.

While it is not your responsibility to ensure that the stop is safe (that duty falls on the officer), you can act in a way that protects your safety and ensures the officer will respect your rights when they are invoked.

In this blog post, we discuss what your rights are, how to assert them, and how to avoid conflict when speaking with an officer.

How Do I Protect Myself During A Police Stop?

If you are being pulled over by a police officer, you should turn on your indicator, slow down, and safely come to a stop on the shoulder of the road on which you are driving. Once you are stopped, you should turn off your car, turn on your overhead lights, open your window, and place your hands on the wheel.

Should the officer request your license, registration and proof of car insurance, slowly and carefully reach for those items and pass them to the officer through your window. Avoid sudden movements, and remember to keep your hands where an officer can see them. After handing these items to the officer, you should place your hands back on the steering wheel.

Do I need to answer a police officer’s questions at a traffic stop?

After you have been pulled over and provided your driver’s license and registration to a law enforcement officer, you have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to answer questions about where you are going, where you are coming from, where you live, or why you are out driving. However, an officer may ask for biographical information to confirm your identity, such as your name.

If you do not want to talk to the police officer, then you should say so out loud. Sitting silently without acknowledging the police officers questions may only escalate tension. Instead, simply state that you do not want to talk about your day and wish to remain silent. Unless the officer plans to write a citation for a traffic violation or take further action, then you are free to go. For example, you may ask if you are under arrest. If not, then simply ask if you are free to go.

Car passengers have similar rights. Passengers are also not under any obligation to answer an officer’s questions. If you are a passenger in a stopped car, you may ask if you are free to leave. If yes, you may exit the vehicle and leave the scene of the traffic stop.


Can Police Search My Car Without A Warrant?

You do not consent to a car search without a warrant, however, there are several circumstances in which an officer may search your car.

Police officers can search your car if they have probable cause that a crime was or is being committed. It is important to remain silent; any answer you give to a police officer may be grounds for probable cause. Officers may also do a safety search for concealed weapons, if they fear for their safety.

Police officers may also search certain areas of your car if evidence of a crime is laying in plain sight. For example, if you are pulled over and the officer sees drugs on the dashboard, then the officer has the right to search the dashboard and surrounding areas. The officer may also pat you down. Any evidence that the officer finds during this search may be used against you in court. 

Law enforcement does not have the ability to search your car just because you have been stopped. Any evidence found in an illegal search of your car will be inadmissible in court.

What Should I Do If I Am Arrested During A Traffic Stop?

If you are arrested as a result of the traffic stop, remain as calm as possible. Tell the arresting officer that you wish to remain silent. Ask for a lawyer immediately. This is not a time to try to argue your case, explain your situation, or provide an excuse for your behavior. Anything you say will be used against you in court.

After an arrest, you will have the right to make a phone call. If you call an attorney, the police will not be allowed to listen to your conversation, however, they can listen to a call made to friends or family. Once you have invoked your right to remain silent and requested an attorney, don’t say anything, sign anything or do anything without a lawyer present.

Who Should I Call If I Am Arrested?

If you are arrested as the result of a traffic stop, you should call a local attorney once you are allowed to do so. A criminal defense attorney can listen to your account of the events leading to your arrest and provide legal advice that could help your case.

At the Freeman Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys are standing by to help those in need of representation. If you or a loved one has been arrested, please call our office at (860) 728-0359 or email info@freemanllc.com.

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