What Should I Do When I am Pulled Over?

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Getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer can have varying outcomes: a warning, a citation, or maybe even an arrest.

Whatever the reason for getting stopped, your choices at that time can impact what happens. This includes not only the arrest itself but the legal steps to follow.

First, it’s important to recognize the difference between the law and the reality of each situation. The two aren’t always the same. For example, if pulled over for speeding an officer might issue a stern warning. Conversely, a driver could be wrongly profiled and then ticketed.

It’s important to know your rights and what you do or do not have to submit to. Generally speaking, reasonably complying with an officer during a stop is recommended. Remember, under the law police have a fair amount of discretion.

Let us share several other tips about what to do if you are pulled over today.

1. Stop and de-escalate.

Pull over as soon as you see the flashing blue lights of a law enforcement vehicle. Do not attempt to flee or make the stop unnecessarily dangerous. De-escalate the situation by calmly veering off the road — using your indicator lights — to a safe area and turn off your vehicle.

This is not an admission of guilt, but demonstrates a willingness to cooperate. It can also help you gather the facts and circumstances involved in the stop in case you decide to challenge it later.

2. Stay in your vehicle.

Stay in your vehicle and roll down the driver’s side window. Placing your hands on the steering wheel can further eliminate any suspicion. Law enforcement officers are trained to assess potential threats. Don’t give them any reason to get the wrong idea.

3. Talking.

No matter how frustrated you may be, it’s highly recommended to speak to the officer in a civil tone. Answer any questions directly when appropriate, such as “Do you have proof of insurance?”

Be careful, however, about speaking too much. Let the officer do most of the talking, and try not to argue. Always remember, you have an absolute right not to say anything.

You have others rights, too:

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your vehicle.
If you’ve been stopped but haven’t been arrested, you have the right to ask whether you’re free to go.
If arrested, you have the right to ask for an attorney — and probably should immediately.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Were you pulled over? Need advice right now? Do not wait to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced member of our local legal defense team.