When the Police Pull You Over

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A guide on what to do when the police pull you over.

Under What Circumstances Can the Police Pull Me Over?

The police need reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to pull you over. It is a very low standard. Simply going over the speed limit by one mile per hour is enough. Almost any traffic infraction will be enough to stop your vehicle.

What Should You Do When Pulled Over

When the police activate their lights, begin to slow down and look for a safe place to pull over. Put on your signal indicating where you are pulling over. If necessary, drive really slow until you reach a safe place or a well lit area.

Stay calm. Turn off your engine and turn on your interior car light if it is dark out. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Make no sudden movements to grab your license or registration or any other sudden movements. Inform the officer of any movement you intend on making with your hands and make them slowly.

DO NOT get out of the car—that is considered an act of aggression! Wait with your hands on the wheel until the police come up to your window. Be prepared to show your license and registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle. Try not to act suspicious or nervous. Obey the officer’s instructions and be polite, even if the officer isn’t being nice to you in return. If the officer is being rude to you, ask for his name and badge number.

If the officer has given you a command that you believe to be unlawful, it is always better to obey the officer’s commands than risk injury or being charged with “resisting and obstructing.” You can always challenge the officer’s decisions and evidence later in court.

Do not give any incriminating statements to the police. If they ask you why they pulled you over, do not tell them anything incriminating. Simply tell them that you do not know or not sure. Be polite and do not have an attitude with them. Ordinarily traffic stops ar enot considered police custody which would trigger Miranda Warnings so you have to be careful about incriminating statements.

Police can order the driver and any passenger outside of the car for any reason—they don’t have to have one (it’s for officer’s safety).

Do I Have the Right to See the Radar Reading? No, you do not. A lot of police officers won’t show it to you if you ask because they don’t have to. Some might show you, but most usually will not.

Plain View

The police have the right to seize any illegal property or contraband that is in “plain view” as long as they have the legal right to be there. That includes obvious smells such as marijuana smoke or drugs in the car or open containers of alcohol. But the police cannot move or manipulate the evidence in order to uncover it.

Police can search the vehicle if they believe that there is a reasonable suspicion of weapons in thevehicle. But that search is limited to where weapons can be found and where the driver has access. Incriminating evidence that is obtained while lawfully searching the vehicle is admissible.

If they police do not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search your vehicle, they cannot lawfully do so without your permission. Do not let them bluff you by telling you that they will go get a warrant so you might as well let them search. There is an automobile exception to search warrants meaning that if the police have probable cause to search your vehicle then they never need a warrant because your car is likely to drive away.

The police can search anywhere in your car except the trunk. They may however search the trunk if the flop sea tis open from the inside. Trunk Exception—Police may search your trunk if they have probable cause that something illegal is in the trunk.

You may give the police permission to search your car but you don’t have to and that will not and cannot be used against you. The police can ask you but may not force you but they may trick you and they do not have to tell you that you can refuse. The scope of the search must be reasonable and you can revoke consent anytime during the search. Police may search objects in the vehicle if they have probable cause and they do not have to worry about if the driver or passenger is the owner of the objects.

Drug Dogs

Police can have drug dogs sniff around a stopped vehicle even if they have no reasonable suspicion to believe that drugs exist. If the drug dog indicates that drugs are present, that is enough probable cause for the police to start searching your car and your person and the car’s passengers for drugs.