Although thousands of Americans are pulled over every day, police encounters initiated through traffic stops can quickly go wrong. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, about 61.5 million U.S residents, 16 and older, have had contact with the police at least once in the past 12 months. According to the same report, a higher percentage of blacks (4%) and Hispanics (3%) than whites (2%) or other races (2%) experienced threats or use of force during police interactions. A study from the Stanford Open Policing Project also revealed that Black drivers in the U.S are around 20% more likely to be stopped by police compared to white drivers. With this in mind, it’s important to know your rights and how to conduct yourself if you are pulled over by police.
Stop the Vehicle in a Safe Location
People often wonder how to safely stop their vehicle once they see flashing lights, especially if they are in a dark area. Although police will give “some leeway” if a driver attempts to find a safe, well-lit place to stop, the situation can escalate if the officer believes the driver is trying to flee or elude them by not immediately stopping. If an officer signals you to pull over, you should pull over to a safe area as soon as possible so they don’t think you are trying to get away.
Keep Your Hands Visible
After you pull over, you should turn off your car engine and keep your hands where officers can see them. Don’t reach for any items in the vehicle or on you unless you are given specific instructions by the police. Try to avoid making any sudden movements and don't look for your license or identification card until the officer instructs you to do so.
You Can Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle
If an officer asks for consent to search your vehicle or personal belongings, you can refuse. However, if police have evidence that you committed a crime, such as drug possession, then they can search the vehicle without consent.
Don’t Answer Police Questions without an Attorney Present
Police can ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance when they pull you over. If the police ask additional questions, you can invoke your right to not speak without the presence of an attorney. However, you must clearly say you want an attorney and do not want to talk to officers until your legal representative is present.
If you have been arrested by police or had your rights violated during a traffic stop, then please reach out to Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160 for top-notch legal representation. Schedule your case consultation today.