What to Do If You Get Pulled Over

The choices you make and the things you say during an encounter with a police officer can have a tremendous effect on any future legal proceedings that follow. What might have been a simple speeding ticket can quickly turn into handcuffs and a night in jail if you say the wrong things, especially if you are concerned that the cop may want to arrest you. Here are some tips for interacting with officers after getting pulled over:

Pulling Over

As soon as you see a police car following you with its lights on and siren wailing, you need to pull over on the right side of the road quickly and safely. Pulling over doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong, but it tells the officer that you are alert and aware of your surroundings. Be sure to use your turn signal as you change lanes, and don’t slam on the brakes. You should roll your windows down and wait for the cop to pull over behind you.

After You Stop

Once you have completely pulled over and stopped the engine, you should prepare to talk to the police officer. There are some things you can do to show you are respectful and courteous; things that can only help you if you end up needing a lawyer. You want to roll your window down all the way and keep your hands either resting outside of the window or resting on top of the steering wheel. Remember, the cop doesn’t know who you are or what you are capable of doing. It’s best to show them that you are not a threat. You also want to discard any chewing gum (don’t litter), put out any cigarettes, and turn the vehicle’s interior light on. It’s better to take a hit with your pride than to try and deal with an adrenaline-fueled police officer. Never get out of the vehicle unless the officer tells you to do so, and wait until they ask for your license to reach for it. You don’t want them to think you are trying to find a weapon before they approach the vehicle.

Searching the Vehicle

Officers are permitted to search the vehicle if they have probable cause. This can be given to them if they see anything illegal that is in plain view, such as an open beer can, drug paraphernalia, or the smell of marijuana. If they find one incriminating piece of evidence, they will most likely decide to search the entire vehicle. Officers are also trained to identify strange behavior, like furtive movements. Furtive movements are typically described as sketchy or strange, sudden actions that indicate your attention is elsewhere. The police officer doesn’t know if you are thinking about a bag of coke you hid under the seat or if you are trying to figure out a way to reach a gun. Acting strangely can get you yanked out of the car and they can search the vehicle if they suspect you are concealing a weapon.

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