Being pulled over by law enforcement can be a frightening and intimidating experience, so it’s important to educate yourself upon your rights beforehand. While our police officers do their best to serve and protect, some do occasionally overstep their boundaries of authority.
Don’t Try to Talk Your Way Out
What if you’ve had a little too much to drink? Although driving under the influence is dangerous, it is crucial that you know what to do if pulled over and not admit to any wrongdoing. Anything you say before you are read your Miranda protections are admissible in court, and most police interactions are now videotaped. Be as cooperative and polite as possible, because noncompliance may be used against you. Politely refuse answering questions regarding alcohol consumption.
Don’t Consent to Car Searches
During a traffic stop, police only need to have probable cause to initiate a vehicle search. Remember that exceeding the speed limit or minor traffic violations do not provide an officer with probable cause to search your car. Remain silent in regards to your infraction, and make it clear in a polite manner that you do not consent to being searched. Don’t unnecessarily prolong your interactions with an officer, it may give them time to figure out a reason to initiate a search.
Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
As soon as you safely pull your car out of traffic, ensure you keep your hands stuck to the steering wheel. Any movement could be perceived as a threat or an attempt to hide drugs or alcohol. Keeping your hands in plain sight is the primary way to help circumvent any suspicion that may lead to an officer initiating a search.
Am I Free to Go?
Unless you’re being arrested or detained, you may ask if you are free to leave. Without asking this question, you are implicitly agreeing to stay and talk with an officer unnecessarily. The more you say and the more time the police have to visually examine your vehicle inside and out, the more risk you are placed at for being detained or arrested for an infraction.
You have rights during any traffic stop, and it’s your responsibility to both know them and exercise them responsibly. Remember to act in a calm and courteous manner, but don’t let yourself be intimidated out of using your constitutionally granted rights!