You have probably been pulled over at some point in your life. You drove to the side of the road, put your car in park and reluctantly waited for the police officer. But did you know the best way to behave from that point forward?
Traffic stops are routine and common, but they can sometimes escalate and go south. Luckily, there are several ways you can help a traffic stop go as smoothly as possible.
- Shut off your car. As soon as your car is in park, turn it off. It can ease the officer’s mind to see that you have no intentions of fleeing.
- Roll your window down sixinches. You should roll the window down far enough that you can have a comfortable conversation with the officer and pass over your documents. However, you don’t want to allow them to put their head in the window and potentially claim they smell drugs or alcohol.
- Remain respectful. You never want to start a traffic stop on a sour note. Act politely, speak calmly and remember that the officer is simply doing their job. It’s also best practice to keep your hands where the officer can see them, so they know you won’t make any sudden or dangerous movements.
- Know your rights for answering questions. As the officer begins investigating, remember that it’s your right to refuse questioning. Even seemingly friendly questions like, “What were you doing tonight?” or “Where are you headed?” can be used to build a case against you. Use your best judgement when choosing when and how to answer.
- Know your rights for car searches. The situation might reach the point where the officer asks you to exit your vehicle. Know that you can lock the doors, roll up the windows and tell the officer that you do not consent to a vehicle search. For most common traffic stops, an officer needs your permission to search the vehicle.
- Know your rights for leaving. Hopefully your stop doesn’t reach the point where you need to ask to leave. But if the officer won’t stop making probing inquiries, you may ask, “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?”. The officer needs probable cause to detain you, so this question will speed up the process if they don’t have a reason to keep you.
Traffic stops are everyday occurrences that usually end with a stern conversation or fine. There’s rarely a reason for them to progress. By following these tips, you can help mitigate the chances of a traffic stop ending badly for you.