We will experience being pulled over by the police at some point in our lives. Some of us much more than others. Following is what to do, what to say and what not to say when you are pulled over. Also, following explains when vehicle searches are legal or not!
Always keep the mentality that your chances of beating a ticket immediately begin when you are being pulled over by the police officer. The actions you take and comments you make from the beginning will place you in a much better position to challenge the ticket in court or have the officer simply issue you a warning. Here are some guidelines.
When the police car first turns on its sirens indicating that the officer is pulling you over, immediately pull over to the right swiftly and cautiously. Instead of first thinking about how disappointed you are that you must deal with this, think about an angry, overworked officer who consistently deals with indignant people all day. As you change lanes, use your turn signals effectively and brake in a safe fashion. When you finally come to a stop, make sure that you are as far to the right as possible as this will give the officer sufficient room and peace of mind when he / she approaches.
An advantage to stopping as quickly as possible is that you will have a much easier attempt at figuring out where the violation was committed because you will still be in the area.
Again, start this part of the situation thinking from the officers perspective. Throw your pride out of the window and prepare to be as courteous and deferential as you have ever been. REMEMBER YOU HAVE LITTLE TO LOSE AT THIS POINT AND LOTS TO GAIN!
The first thing to do as the officer is approaching is to roll your window down all of the way. Take in mind that the officer's most dangerous part in most of these situations is the approach to the car. Therefore, keep your hands up, possibly on the steering wheel and if its dark turn on your interior light. A recent survey suggested that turning off the engine is not a necessary step, however if the officer asks you to turn it off, immediately turn off the engine.
The Officer will ask you for your license and proof of insurance, therefore DO NOT start searching through your car, pants pocket or purse for the items. Again, think about it from the officers perspective, because he does not know you or what you may be capable of.
If you have doubts about whether the individual that pulled you over is a real police officer (unmarked car). Politely ask the individual to see the officer's badge and photo identification. Couple this with a brief story about, how this had happened to a friend of yours and something terrible had happened to her or him. Should you still have any doubts, politely ask the officer to call a supervisor to the scene or you can request to the individual that you would like to follow the officer to the station.
Most often, a police officer cannot search your vehicle, however as is always, there are numerous exceptions to this general rule.
1. A police officer that sees you trying to throw something out of the window or hiding something under the seat may legally search your car. Remember this can be highly subjective and an officer can claim that any movement was an attempt to hide something or throw something out of the window.
Therefore, once the spotlight is on you, realize that the officer is watching every single move and may use any move you make including a small tip of the shoulders to give him a reason to search your car.
REMAIN STILL, CALM and COLLECTIVE!
2. Reasonable suspicion that you are armed and dangerous. If the officer has this reasonable suspicion, he can pat you down or frisk you. The officer can also frisk you if he or she reasonably believes that you are involved in some sort of criminal activity. Should the officer have probable cause, defined as a reasonable justification or basis to believe that you or any of your passengers are involved in criminal activity, then the officer can search your car and all of the objects belonging to passengers.
3. If You Or Any Occupant of Your Car is Arrested. In this situation your car can be searched as well. Additionally, if you as the driver is arrested, your car will be towed and the police have the authority to make what is called an inventory search after the car is towed, even if no reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
4. Illegal Objects in Plain View. Without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, an officer can seize any illegal objects within your car that are in "plain view" of the officer. These objects could include beer bottles, wine bottles, any illegal drug paraphernalia. IN PLAIN VIEW AN OFFICER CAN REACH IN THE DOOR AND GET IT! While grabbing the objects in plain view, they can continue to look through your car and seize other illegal objects.
During most if not all traffic stops, an officer that stops your car for a traffic violation has the plenary authority to insist that you exist your car as well as your passengers. If asked to exit the car, YOU SHOULD DO SO! As you exit the car be observant of your location and where and what the alleged violation is.
Most police officers however will insist that you stay in your car and even insist that you stay in your car if you attempt to get out. PLEASE COOPERATE WITH THE OFFICER AND STAY IN YOUR CAR. Should you not cooperate within this position and attempt to exit the car, prepare to see a gun in your face. Remember the cop doesn't know you from the next person who could be a danger to their lives. Their assumption here is that you may be attempting to flee or brandish a weapon.
Again, as stated above, if the officer has any fear or trepidation, he has the right to frisk you or pat you down. This consists of your outer clothing, therefore please do not have your concealed knife or gun on you! If he feels any weapon, he can grab it. Also, if the officer truly has a good faith belief that you are dangerous, he can look through the passenger compartment for weapons. Remember, remain calm, cool and collective.
YOUR CONVERSATION WITH THE OFFICER IS VERY IMPORTANT! I understand you are disappointed, now you are late and of course you did nothing wrong, however you are still pulled over and everything you say can make the situation worse or better! Be as courteous and deferential as you have ever been in your life. Set your pride aside and remember cases can be won or lost depending on what is said or not said to an officer.
NEVER SPEAK FIRST!!! Also, never say anything defensive to the officer. Any answer you give to the officer will be non-committal and highly deferential. Let the officer begin the conversation. He will probably ask "Do You Know Why I Stopped You? and "Can I see Your License and Registration?" As you begin to retrieve for your license and registration answer "No I don't" and let the officer explain. When the officer explains do not argue, however answer with "I See" or no answer at all and a nod. Silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you in court. Also, the officer has a wide discretion in determining whether to issue you a ticket or a warning.