The most common interaction between the public and the police is on the road. Officers are monitoring traffic and looking for anyone they believe is in violation of the law and/or putting others at risk. This means the most likely time you will speak with law enforcement is behind the wheel of a vehicle.
What's important to remember is you are not guilty of any offense just because you've been pulled over. Officers aren't guaranteed to hand you a ticket, and your overall conduct could determine whether or not you get a ticket, your ability to fight a ticket, and the chances of the traffic stop being escalated. We want to prepare you for these situations and help you protect your own future and freedom.
Verify You're Being Pulled Over by the Police
This one might seem odd, but it's important to actually know the police are the ones pulling you over. There have been stories of people purchasing red and blue lights to pull people over and rob them, hurt them, or worse.
Unmarked police cars ARE permitted to pull you over, despite popular online rumors. The only limitation is that these cars cannot be used exclusively for traffic law enforcement. If you're being pulled over by an unmarked car and feel unsafe, you have options.
First, you should never pull over in a dark, secluded area if you're suspicious of the unmarked vehicle pulling you over. Instead, you should find a well-lit and crowded area to do so if possible. Next, you can call 911. Dispatch will be able to verify whether or not they have an officer in the area and can use the details of the vehicle pulling you over to verify that it is an officer. They will immediately send help to your location if they determine the vehicle is not actual law enforcement.
Be Mindful of Your Conduct
Once you've verified you're being pulled over legally, you should take the necessary steps to safely pull over. This includes slowing down, using your turn signal, putting the car in park, and remaining in the vehicle unless the officer instructs otherwise.
The best and smartest way to keep the traffic stop from escalating is to listen to the typical commands of an officer. They're going to ask you for your license, proof of insurance and registration – keep these in an easily accessible place and have them ready when the officer reaches your window so you're not forced to reach into unseen areas which can create tension. The officer may also ask you to turn off the ignition which is only so the officer can have peace of mind you're not going to flee or put them/others in danger while the traffic stop is completed.
If you receive orders that appear to be out of the ordinary, such as getting out of the vehicle or allowing a search of your vehicle without reason, you should deny these requests and ask for a supervisor to respond if the officer persists. You should never submit to a search even if you're confident you've got “nothing to hide.”
Don't Admit Anything
You are not required to tell the police anything. Officers will often ask you if you know why they pulled you over – ALWAYS say no. You should never say you were speeding, driving erratically, or committing any other violations.
As they say, “you have the right to remain silent.” You can simply hand officers the necessary documents and refuse to answer any of their questions. This likely increases the chances you're given a ticket as some officers tend to be more lenient on more compliant drivers, but you don't have to incriminate yourself and never should.
Contact Us BEFORE You Pay
If the officer gives you a ticket at the end of your traffic stop – don't just pay it. Paying the citation is an admission you committed the infraction and will result in points on your license and affects your permanent driving record, and may result in a suspension of your license, and significant increases in your insurance costs.
Instead, you should contact Malcolm Anthony, P.A. for a free strategy review. We handle a lot of traffic infraction citation cases, sometimes just to avoid points. We will help you review the situation and determine whether you have a defensible case to protect your freedom and preserve your future.