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Red and blue lights flashing in the background. A siren whoop. Looks like you have to pull over. What did you do? Are you been pulled over for no reason?
Traffic stops may be a daily occurrence for police officers. However, cops can be jumpy during stops because they're dangerous. Just a few days ago, an officer from Hayward, California was shot and killed only 45 seconds into a routine traffic stop. In another case in Texas, Sandra Bland was pulled over for the relatively minor infraction of failing to signal. By the end of the stop, the officer became upset, and Bland was arrested.
Even if you think you were pulled over for nothing wrong, here are five tips on what to do during a traffic stop:
We all feel a moment of panic when we see police lights in our rear view mirror, but, whatever you do, do not panic. Take a breath, turn on your signal light, and pull over when it's safe to do so. While pulling over in a safe place is a priority, try to do so sooner rather than later so that the officer doesn't think you're trying to run.
Police officers may get irritated when they can't see you. Once you've pulled over, you should:
We all know that police ask for license and registration when they pull you over. However, do not rush to get them from your glove compartment or back pocket. This could look like you're diving for a gun.
Instead, wait until the officer requests the documents. Then, let them know that you'll be reaching into your glove compartment, center console, or back pocket, and then move slowly to get the documents.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?" Remember, anything you say can be used against you, so don't admit any fault, even if you have a suspicion about why you were pulled over. Instead, it's completely honest for you to say, "I don't know." After all, you can't read the officer's mind.
This rule applies to all other questions they may ask. You have the right to remain silent. Even if you do answer, don't say anything that will incriminate you, even if you're trying to be helpful or have nothing to hide.
Most importantly, even if you're angry about being pulled over, stay calm and answer all questions as politely as you can manage. There is never any benefit in antagonizing a police officer.
If the first four steps don't work and the officer arrests you, absolutely do not resist. The arrest is not the time to assert your innocence. Any resistance has the possibility of escalating into a dangerous physical altercation.
Wait until court to present your arguments and clear your name.
If you've been arrested, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.