How To Navigate Being Pulled Over By The Police

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School’s out, summer jobs are starting, vacations are planned, and your teenager is on the road! Traveling to a new job or to explore new places is exciting; being pulled over by the police is not. Perhaps your relatively new driver was paying attention to a podcast or playlist, not the speed limit, or perhaps the vehicle he or she is driving has a defect, such as a broken taillight. Seeing flashing blue lights in one’s rear-view mirror will cause anyone to become nervous and begin sweating. It’s never too early to have a conversation with your teen or young adult about what to do. Here are the basics:

  1. Try to remain calm and find a safe place to pull over.

  2. Turn off the car and roll down your window. If it’s nighttime, put on your interior light.

  3. Place your hands on the wheel.

  4. Let the police officer speak first and follow her or his directions.

  5. Be polite and follow the officer’s instructions. Do not argue.

Finding a safe place to pull over is important for your safety, as well as the safety of the police officer. If you cannot find a safe place immediately, put on your hazard lights and slow down until you find one so that the officer knows that you are trying to find a safe place to pull over. Always pull over to the right side of the road, never to the left. If it is nighttime, find a well-lit area if possible. When you find a spot, use your turn signal to communicate that you are pulling over.

Turning off the car will indicate to the police officer that you are not going to take off. Roll down your driver’s side window, as well as any other tinted windows. If it’s nighttime, put your interior light on so that the officer can easily see you. Place your hands on the steering wheel. Remember that the police officer may be nervous because he or she will not know if you have a gun or not; placing your hands on the wheel will reassure the officer that you are not reaching for a gun. A patrol officer at the Anne Arundel County Eastern District Police Station advised to “stay cool, calm and relaxed. Don’t make any furtive movements with your hands.”

When the officer approaches you, wait for him or her to speak. Look at the officer and answer politely with “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir.” You will need to produce your driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance. Wait for the police officer to ask for these documents, and then request permission to get them. For example, if the documents are located in your glove box, specifically ask, “May I get the registration certificate out of the glove box?” If you have proof of insurance on your mobile phone, let the office know, and he or she will give you time to find it. Wallet in your back pocket or purse? Let the officer know before moving to get it.

Know that you have the right to remain silent, and you do not have to consent to a search of your car. The police need probable cause to search your car or open your trunk. Don’t be rebellious, however, as you don’t want the officer to feel he or she has to use force. Follow every order and be polite. Even if the officer is rude, be kind – he or she may be having a bad day. Don’t argue with the officer even if you disagree with his or her decision; you can always contest a ticket in court. Keep your emotions in control, and likely you will be back on the road to adventure without incident! Life is a highway – here’s to smooth travels.

If you find yourself in a legal entanglement emanating from a police stop, you will have many questions. You should consult with an attorney who is familiar with this area of the law and who will assist you in making informed decisions. David Diggs is experienced in this facet of the law. If you need further information regarding this subject, contact The Law Office of David V. Diggs LLC, located at 8684 Veterans Highway, Suite 204, in Millersville, by calling 410-244-1171 or by emailing david@diggslaw.com.

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