Being pulled over by the police for any reason is an unnerving experience and one that highlights the importance of keeping your wits about you. Understanding your rights well in advance can help you navigate this situation so that you do not cross the lines with the police officer but also so that you can protect your rights and decline an officer who is trying to push the limits based on his or her perception that you may not be familiar with your rights.
When stopped by a police officer, he or she will most likely ask for your registration, your proof of insurance and an identification document. Providing this coolly and calmly or indicating that you are going to lean over to get to your glove box can help the officer remain calm. Never make any sudden movements that indicate that you might have a weapon or be attempting to do anything to assault the officer.
Open your window and put your hands on the wheel before the officer even comes up to the car. An officer who stops your vehicle for a suspected traffic violation is typically not allowed to search your vehicle. There are several exceptions, however, to this rule. An officer will watch for any sort of furtive movement that could indicate that you’re attempting to hide something.
Officers look for anything incriminating that can be in plain view such as wine bottles, open beer or marijuana joints. One item discovered in plain view could lead to a thorough search that could identify more illegal or incriminating objects. The police may even make an inventory search afterward if you are arrested and your car is towed even if they have no reason to suspect that anything illegal is inside. An officer who does stop you has the right to request that you and any passengers get out of the car, you should get out if asked to do so.
Follow the officer’s directives but begin with the assumption that you should remain in the car. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after you’ve been accused of a crime is strongly recommended so that you can protect your rights.