Know Your Rights! What to Do When You’re Pulled Over for a Traffic Stop

traffic stop

The most common reason for contact with the police in the US is being a driver in a traffic stop.

In fact, in 2011 over 26 million people had contact with police through traffic stops.

Most people tend to panic when they see a police car in their rearview mirror. They know they have constitutional rights. But they also know they can get into trouble by not taking the right steps.

Knowing what to do and say during a traffic stop can help prevent your case from escalating. It may even help you to avoid getting a ticket.

Here are your rights and the things to do if you’re pulled over for a traffic stop.

When You See the Police Car

If you notice a police car following you with lights flashing or siren blaring, pull over to the right. Doing so quickly and safely lets the officer know you’re complying.

Failure to pull over may raise suspicion or merit another charge. Pulling over immediately isn’t an admission of guilt. It signals the police officer that you’re aware of everything going on around you.

Also, by stopping right away, you’ll be in a better position to figure out where and how you violated traffic laws.

Being close enough to where the officer claims you violated traffic laws enables you to study the scene. This may help you to identify holes in the officer’s allegations.

When pulling over, use turn signals to change lanes. Stop as far to the right as possible to mitigate the risk of other vehicles hitting your car.

After You’ve Stopped

Once you’ve pulled over, discard any chewing gum and put out your cigarette (if you have one).

You should show respect and courtesy, even if the police officer seems aggressive. You have nothing to lose by being courteous and a lot to lose by being rude or argumentative.

At this point, you should do the following:

  • Roll down the window
  • Turn off the engine
  • Put your hands on the steering wheel, where the officer can see them
  • Turn on your interior lights if it’s dark

Do not reach for any documentation unless instructed to do so. Otherwise, the officer may misconstrue your actions for something else, like reaching for a weapon.

If you have any suspicion that the officer is not what he or she claims to be (driving an unmarked vehicle), ask for identification.

Don’t Incriminate Yourself

When pulled over for a traffic stop, be very careful of what you say. The officer is likely to ask you a question that might imply guilt on your part.

The officer may ask, “Do you know why I stopped you?” or “Did you know that you failed to yield at that stop sign over there?”

All you need to say is a polite, “No, officer.”

You don’t want to confess that you were speeding or breaking a traffic law. You’re protected against self-incrimination in the US constitution under the Fifth Amendment. This requires no person to be a witness against himself in any criminal case proceedings.

Keep It Simple

You can be polite and informative without saying too much. In fact, you should simply answer “Yes” or “No” and let the officer do most of the talking.

Doing so can keep you from becoming argumentative. It can also prevent you from saying things that could incriminate you.

Do not act suspicious when pulled over for a traffic stop. Acting suspiciously may give the police officer reasons to search your car.

Normally, a police officer is not allowed to search your car during a traffic stop. But there are several exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the officer sees you trying to hide something, he may legally search your car.

If you attempt to throw something out the window, you may give the officer reason to believe that you’re carrying something illegal. Again, he or she may legally search your car.

Because police officers have been injured or killed during traffic stops, they don’t appreciate sudden or suspicious movements. The officer can even frisk you if he has probable reasons to believe you’re armed or dangerous.

Get Out of the Car Only If Asked

An officer who pulls you over for a traffic stop has the right to instruct you and your passengers to get out of the car. You should only exit the car when asked.

Doing so lets the officer understand that you know he or she is in control. You should follow the officer’s directives by getting out slowly with no sudden movements.

Getting out of the car also gives you the opportunity to look at the scene to verify or refute the officer’s allegations.

If you immediately exit the vehicle after pulling over, the officer might interpret that as an attempt to flee or a threat of danger. Officers are trained to expect the worse from traffic stops. Such actions might even warrant a search.

Ask If You’re Free to Go

It’s polite to ask the officer if you are free to go after your license and other documents have been returned to you.

Doing so assures you that the officer is satisfied with his or her findings. It also ensures you won’t be accused of fleeing the crime scene.

Asking if you’re free to go is also a good way to respond should the officer attempt to trap you into something self-incriminating.

Final Thoughts on a Traffic Stop

A police traffic stop can be initiated if the officer has reasonable suspicion that you’ve violated a traffic law. However, there are things you can do to avoid being the one getting pulled over.

For example, you should never drive with headlamps or taillights that are not functioning. It’s also important not to exceed the maximum speed limit imposed on freeways in your state.

If you’ve received a Florida speeding ticket, it’s advisable to hire a skilled lawyer. He or she can help you navigate the traffic court system and get you a favorable outcome.

Call us today for a reputable Florida speeding ticket lawyer.