Few things are scarier than getting pulled over by the police. No matter how many times you’ve gotten a ticket or been arrested, encountering the police is an anxiety-provoking experience. As a result, many drivers simply don’t know how to handle their traffic stops, which is why our Fairfax criminal defense lawyer describes 5 things to do when stopped by a police officer below:
Choose a safe place to pull over
The first thing you should do is pull over to the right side of the road away from traffic or in a nearby parking lot. Many drivers pull over as soon as possible and end up posing a danger to themselves, the police officer, and others because they choose a hazardous location, such as a narrow or busy road. To best avoid these risks, you should turn on your signal or hazard lights so the officer knows you are following their instructions. From there, choose a safe area to pull over.
Place both hands on the steering wheel
Police officers have a tough job. They are constantly on high-alert to avoid dangerous and deadly situations, even if those situations are routine traffic stops. As such, it will benefit both you and the police to keep your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. By doing so, the officer will feel assured that you are not holding weapons or attempting to commit any suspicious or unlawful activity. Only move your hands when instructed to do so.
Be polite and respectful
As infuriating as it can be to get pulled over, especially if you are convinced you did nothing wrong, you should be polite to the officer at all times. It will benefit you to treat the officer with respect, as they may be less inclined to give you a ticket or arrest you. Many people make the mistake of giving attitude or acting hostile to police officers, which escalates their situations to an unfavorable point more times than not. It’s not worth it. With this in mind, we encourage you to be civil and calm towards the officer.
Avoid making sudden movements
As mentioned above, keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times unless the officer says otherwise. If they ask for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, you should tell them where those items are located and tell them that you will reach for them. Communicating your actions with police officers will help them feel safer and less inclined to resort to defense tactics.
Do not consent to a search
The Fourth Amendment protects every American from unreasonable searches and seizures. If an officer lacks probable cause to search your vehicle, they are legally prohibited from doing so without a valid search warrant. However, many people waive their rights by consenting to a search if they believe they have nothing to hide. Don’t do this, even if you too have nothing to hide. Instead, respectfully refuse an officer’s request to search your vehicle or your person by saying “No, I do not consent to a warrantless search.”
Speak only when necessary
Getting pulled over can be a nerve-wracking experience, no matter how many times it’s happened to you. Officers may only ask to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance, so avoid offering any additional information that you believe would help your case. It may have the opposite effect. If the officer asks you questions such as, “Where are you driving from?” “Where are you going?” Did you have one or two beers?” it is in your best interests to remain silent or decline to answer any additional questions as you could end up incriminating yourself. Tell the officer that you refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present. If you remain silent then nothing you say can be used against you or twisted or taken out of context.
Unfortunately, following the tips above does not guarantee that you are immediately “off the hook.” You may still get a ticket or arrested despite being compliant and considerate during your traffic stop. If that is the case, do not panic. Fight for your freedom with the help of our experienced attorney instead. We will evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and see how it compares to the statutes and case law In Virginia to determine how to fight your case.