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Stopped by the police while driving

There are many different reasons why the police might stop you. Whatever the reason, the officer needs your cooperation.

  • You may have committed a traffic violation.
     
  • You may fit the description of a suspect.
     
  • The officer might think you are in trouble and need help.
     
  • You may have witnessed a crime.

If you are stopped by the police while driving, you may feel confused, anxious or even angry. These are natural feelings, but remember traffic stops can also be stressful and dangerous for the police officer. Each year, a number of law enforcement officers are killed or seriously injured while making the "routine traffic stop". Police officers are especially vulnerable during the hours of darkness.

With this in mind, there are things that you, as a law-abiding citizen, can do to help lessen the unpleasantness of the experience.

WHEN STOPPED BY POLICE REMEMBER:

A police officer may pull you over at any time for a traffic offense or police investigation.

  • When you see the red and blue overhead lights and/or hear the siren, remain calm and safely pull over to the right side of the road.
     
  • Remain in your vehicle unless the officer advises otherwise.
     
  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see them.
     
  • Avoid any sudden movements - especially toward the floorboard, rear seat or passenger side of the vehicle.
     
  • Do not immediately reach for your license or other documents until the officer requests them. Most State Laws require drivers to show their license, vehicle registration and insurance card upon request.
     
  • If your documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are before you reach for them.
     
  • If you have a weapon in the vehicle, promptly notify the officer of its location.
     
  • If the stop occurs during darkness, turn on your dome or interior lights so the officer can easily see the interior of your car.
     
  • If there are passengers in your vehicle, encourage them to remain quiet and cooperate with the officer's instructions.
     
  • The officer may issue you a ticket. If you feel the reason is vague or unclear, politely ask the officer for details.
     
  • Avoid becoming argumentative. Arguing will not change the officer's mind. If you contest the violation, you will have an opportunity to address the matter in court.
     
  • Be honest with the officer. If you really did not see the stop sign or were unaware of the speed limit let the officer know. Being honest about any situation never hurts.
     
  • Finally, if you receive a ticket, accept it calmly. It is not an admission of guilt. Your signature is not always required. Signing it is not an admission of guilt.

Each situation is unique and the police officer must alter his or her response to fit the circumstance.
 

A Police Officer:

  • Will provide his or her name and badge number upon request;
     
  • Who is not in uniform will present proper identification. You may request to examine their credential so that you are satisfied they are a law enforcement officer;
     
  • Will only use the force necessary to effect the arrest of a suspect and to maintain the custody of the prisoner;
     
  • Will not search the body of a person of the opposite sex except to prevent injury to the officer or another person, or to prevent the disposal or destruction of evidence; and
     
  • Will only arrest a person for a crime committed in the officer's presence, or when the officer has probable cause to believe the person has already committed a crime. If you are arrested do not resist.  You get to explain yourself in court.

Most states have traffic laws which requires that all drivers shall yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. Drivers are to immediately pull over to the right side of the road, stop and remain in a stopped position until the emergency vehicle has passed.
 

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Last modified: April 5,2013