What to Do When You’re Stopped By the Police

When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, it’s normal to be worried. Being stopped by the police can be a scary experience, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. To help you protect yourself and know what to expect, our Raleigh criminal lawyers are sharing exactly what to do during a traffic stop.

What to Do When You Get Pulled Over

You’re driving down the road when you see red and blue lights flashing in your mirror and hear the siren. The important thing is to stay calm and make sure your traffic stop goes as smoothly as possible by following these steps:

Pull Over as Soon As Possible

Make sure you pull over as soon as you can, but in doing so, choose a place where you can pull far enough off the road where you won’t obstruct traffic and the officer can exit the vehicle and approach you safely. Use your turn signal to show you are pulling over.

Once You’re Pulled Over

There will most likely be a period of time between when you pull over and when the officer approaches your vehicle. As soon as you pull over, partially roll down the window, turn off the car, turn on the internal light, and place your hands on the wheel where they are visible. Do not use this time to open your glove box or look around in the vehicle. However, if you have a firearm in your vehicle where it is easily accessible, place it on the dashboard and then put your hands on the steering wheel.

After the Officer Approaches Your Car

The officer will likely ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Let them know where they are in your vehicle, such as “My registration is in the glove box” to let them know what you’re doing. Keep your hands visible, avoid moving suddenly, and stay in the vehicle unless asked to exit.

Typically, if you have simply committed a traffic violation, the officer will tell you why you have been pulled over and issue a warning or a citation. You may then continue on, though we would recommend calling a traffic ticket attorney to help you get a more favorable outcome.

If You Must Exit the Vehicle

At any point, the officer may ask you to exit the vehicle. This does not mean anyone is under suspicion necessarily. Simply follow instructions but continue to avoid sudden movements and keep your hands visible.

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What to Do If You or Your Vehicle Are Searched

If the officer asks to search your car, you can say no, and we would highly recommend this. If there is reasonable cause, they will search your car whether you consent or not. Reasonable cause to search your car or your person could include:

  • “Furtive movements” which the officer may take as an attempt to hide something or rid the vehicle of something illegal.
  • Evidence of illegal activity that is in plain view, such as a joint or open container of alcohol.
  • Searching you for weapons through a pat-down though anything they discover that is illegal during the pat-down can be used against you.

It is important to note that you do not have to turn over your cell phone without a warrant nor can the police look through your phone without your consent.

What to Do If You Are Arrested During a Traffic Stop

During a traffic stop, the only information you are required to give is your name and address. You don’t have to answer other questions, and silence is not considered an admission of guilt. For example, you don’t have to answer if you knew how fast you were going or whether you have been drinking. However, it’s important to be courteous and not argue as that can elevate a situation.

If you are arrested, whether it’s for suspicion of drunk driving or other charges, it’s important to immediately ask to speak to an attorney. You do not have to answer further questions or give up any additional information.

Call a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Whether you need help with a traffic ticket or you’re facing charges, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh. To speak with an attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call us at (919) 887-8040 or fill out the form below to get started.

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