Getting pulled over by the police can be a nerve-wracking experience. We’ll help you understand what you should and shouldn’t do when you spot the approaching lights or hear the siren’s wail.
When You First Notice Flashing Police Lights
When a law enforcement officer is pulling you over, your first move is to get to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe to do so. Keep in mind that the officer may understandably be wary of you while approaching the car. Not all drivers are as courteous as you, so do your best to let the officer know you’re ready, willing, and able to cooperate.
As soon as you have pulled your car over:
- DO turn off your engine and roll down your window. If you wish, you can keep the window just low enough to talk through until you’re comfortable that this is a legitimate officer, then roll it down all the way.
- ALWAYS keep your hands on the wheel and clearly visible to the officer.
- DO turn on your emergency flashers or hazard lights when you park.
- DO be respectful and address the police officer as “Officer” or “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Sometimes “I’m sorry” does wonders.
- DO turn on your car’s interior lights if it’s nighttime or visibility is low.
- DO stay calm and seated —this goes for your passengers too). Stay still, and unless the officer specifically requests otherwise, DO NOT get out of your car.
- DO hand over your important documents on request (license, registration, and proof of insurance).
- DO remember that you do not HAVE to agree or consent to a search of your body or your vehicle. If the officer doesn’t have probable cause to search, he/she may ask if you will agree to let them search anyway….and if you agree to it, any evidence found can be used in court.
- DO answer the officer’s questions honestly. DO maintain eye contact and be civil, polite, and to the point. (It’s worth noting that you do have the legal right to remain silent.)
- DO sign the traffic ticket. You can still contest the ticket in court–signing is not an admission of guilt.
- DON’T panic. Many stops are for common traffic violations or fix-it tickets for things like broken taillights and overly tinted windows. Remember that law enforcement is doing their best to ensure your own safety, as well as that of the general public.
- DON’T automatically remove your seat belt. This could lead to a Click-It Ticket. Better to wait until the officer sees you take it off before reaching into the glove box for your documents.
- DON’T reach for your license, registration, or any other item until the officer asks you to, because to an officer approaching your car, sudden hand movements can be perceived as a threat.
- DON’T argue with the officer. A smile and a positive attitude will make the incident go much more smoothly. If you disagree with the citation or the officer’s actions, you can file a complaint later.
- DON’T admit to wrong-doing. Keep answers short.
- DON’T speak first. Always let the officer state the reason for pulling you over.
- DON’T forget to focus. It is imperative that you listen carefully to what the officer is saying and memorize or jot down the officer’s name in case you need it later.
- DON’T put yourself at risk. If it’s late at night and you’re uncomfortable or if the officer is in plainclothes, you can ask the officer for ID. You can also request to follow the officer to a police station or a well-lit area.
- DON’T try to outrun the police. This is obvious. What could have been a minor speeding ticket would turn into MUCH more serious charges, with MUCH longer-lasting legal implications and consequences.