Regardless of whether you've done anything wrong, getting pulled over by a police officer is a stressful moment. When you're in the middle of one, it can be very easy to make a mistake or a misstatement that makes everything worse. To help prevent this from happening, here are three things to remember for the next time you're pulled over.
1. A police officer is another human being
As a human, they can be afraid for their own safety. Officers are killed while conducting routine traffic stops all the time. If you get pulled over, no matter how frustrated you are at the officer who's pulled you over, it's important to remember that, while he or she approaches your car, they're going to be worried about an ambush. Make it very clear that you have no intention of hurting and that you are not a threat. Once on the side of the road, put your car in park, turn on the interior light, roll down the window, and put your hands on the steering wheel, in plain view. When you get asked for your license and registration documents, don't make sudden movements. A nervous police officer only makes the situation worse.
2. You don't have to consent to a search
Consent searches are law enforcement's best friend. No matter how unreasonable or unconstitutional they may be, if you consent to a search, it's okay for the policeman to perform the search. The police count on this to gather evidence of crime without having to worry about a warrant or even probable cause. You may even be consenting to a search without really knowing it – police have gotten very good at asking to do a search in subtle ways that don't even come across as questions. You have a right to refuse a search, and refusing does not give them probable cause to conduct that search. In addition, if you give them consent to search your car and they find something (drugs or guns), your lawyer is going to have a hard time to suppress the fruits of the search. That means you may end up with a serious criminal conviction because you gave the officer consent to search.
3. A traffic stop is not the time to test your rights
As tempting as it might be to tell a policeman that he's in the wrong, or that you have the right to do something, a traffic stop is not the right place to do it. Even if a police officer does something that you think violates your rights during the stop, like yanking you out of the driver's seat, don't resist. Testing your rights during the traffic stop only escalates the situation, and makes things worse. Sadly, when people test their rights roadside, it can lead to tragedy. Click here to read about the Deven Guiford case in Michigan.
Test your rights in the courtroom, where you could get your case thrown out, and even move towards getting the officer suspended or towards getting damages for a civil rights violation.
Staying calm and reasonable during a traffic stop is difficult. However, keeping a cool head and making the right responses to an officer's questioning can make a huge difference. If you still end up charged for a crime, like operating under the influence (OUI) or drug possession, as a result of the traffic stop, call William T. Bly. As an OUI and criminal defense attorney, he has the experience and knowledge to help you through the criminal process. Contact him online, or call his law office at (207) 571-8146.