What to Do When You Get Pulled Over by a Cop While Driving
Follow these steps if you're pulled over while driving
It’s a terrifying feeling when you’re driving down the highway and a set of red-blue lights start flashing in your rearview mirror. Your immediate instinct is to panic, especially if you’ve never been pulled over by a cop before. The way you react can significantly influence the situation, so if you’re pulled over by a police officer, trooper, or highwayman for a traffic violation, here is what you should do.
How to Act During a Traffic Stop
When you first see the patrol car tailing you–and it has its lights on–pull over to the right berm at a wide, safe spot, but don’t wait too long before doing so. If you don’t see a safe place to immediately pull over, signal your intent to the officer using your caution lights.
Come to a complete stop and turn your car off. Roll your window halfway down, put the keys on the dashboard, place both hands on the steering wheel, and turn on the interior dome light if it’s nighttime. If you have a recording device, turn it on and leave it on the dashboard. Don’t unbuckle, get out of the car, or rummage around through your car. Take a deep breath and relax.
Wait until the officer approaches and speaks to you before saying anything. Refer to the individual as “officer” and be polite; maintain eye contact. Answer his/her questions with short, concise responses in “yes” or “no.” Do not engage in conversation and do not confess to or agree with anything that admits your fault. The more you say, the more could be used to incriminate you later. Don’t argue; talk as little as possible. If you have passengers, make sure they do not speak until spoken to directly by the officer.
There are very few questions an officer actually needs to ask to give you a ticket, so if you are being questioned, ask if you are being detained or if you’re free to go. If you’re being detained, you must be accused of a crime and placed under arrest. If arrested, ask for a lawyer and don’t answer any more questions. If the officer does not have probable cause, do not let him/her search your vehicle. Requests like these need your consent and you can announce your non-consent.
If you move to get your license and registration when asked for it, let the officer know that’s what you’re doing and where the documentation is located. If you are asked to step out of the car, roll up the window and lock the door behind you. The officer has the legal right to ask you to exit from the vehicle and perform a pat-down.
Talk with a lawyer if you believe you’ve been falsely accused of a crime. If you want to fight the ticket, don’t argue it with the officer. Follow the information to contest it on the ticket. Right now, it’s better to keep a low profile than cause a stir and worsen the situation.