WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET PULLED OVER?
Knowing what to do in the event you get pulled over is very important. However, it is equally important to know the reasons for getting stopped by a law enforcement officer so as to avoid being pulled over in the first place.
Here are a few of the top reasons:
- Speeding. Clearly, driving above the speed limit is most likely going to catch the attention of the police, sheriff or C.H.P. Because it will take longer to react to an unexpected event, and the braking distances increase the faster one drives, this is the number one reason law enforcement pull over drivers as it obviously helps prevent accidents.
- Cell Phones. With the proliferation of mobile devices, nearly everyone is using a cell phone throughout the day and night. However, using a cell phone to text and/or talk with another person while driving a vehicle is another major reason you will get pulled over. And, to deny you were using the phone or to throw the phone on the seat next to you may not be as clever as it might seem; cell phones not only maintain their own records on the device, but can be traced to the cell towers to identify the time and location of our communications.
- Unsafe & Hazardous Driving. It should be no surprise that, among other things, following too closely; driving through a stop sign or red traffic signal; making an illegal U-turn; failing to yield to other vehicles; unsafe and/or improper lane changes; driving too slowly; not wearing a seat belt; and, failing to signal are at the top of the list of the various reasons for getting pulled over by law enforcement.
- Vehicle Equipment. At the top of the list of equipment violations are improperly (extremely) tinted windows; headlights that are inoperative (such as burned out); expired registration license plate stickers; and, having no license plate on the front bumper. These are vehicle equipment reasons officers make traffic stops.
Once you become aware an officer intends for you to stop your vehicle, you should cautiously pull over to a safe area of the road or freeway as soon as possible. When the vehicle is at rest, the motor should be turned off.
The officer will request your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Being evasive or denying any wrongdoing when it is clear you violated the law is not likely to be in one’s best interest. Also, do not argue with the officer. Being polite as in most situations we face is generally the wisest decision. By talking back to or arguing with an officer, it is likely the officer will be angered; and, being confrontational, probably will exacerbate the situation. Since an officer has discretion on how to proceed, there is little or no reason to get into a conflict with him/her. On the other hand, if the officer asks “Do you know why I stopped you,” it is noteworthy that anything you say can and will be used against you (see information below).
Some Relevant Laws:
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: This Amendment to the Constitution guarantees one the right to remain silent and to be free from self-incrimination. In the situation of a traffic stop, however, refusing to talk to an officer can result in unintended consequences. Ordinarily, a traffic stop is deemed an investigatory process; at the outset, you are not considered to be in custody and, therefore, there is no requirement to be admonished by law enforcement as to your rights. If you are asked to “voluntarily” come in to the police or sheriff’s station for questioning, you can refuse. On the other hand, once an individual is arrested, you will be taken into custody and, therefore, should obtain the advice of a criminal defense lawyer before making any statements. And, if the traffic stop escalates into an arrest, you should affirmatively invoke your Miranda rights under the Fifth Amendment and remain silent. However, it is important to do all of the above calmly and politely.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: If an officer decides to detain you, there may be sufficient evidence to do so. If there is probable cause to make an arrest, however, the situation as noted earlier becomes one in which you are in “custody;” then, the officer must state (commonly referred to as the Miranda rights) you have a right to remain silent; anything you say or do can and will be used against you in Court; you have a right to an attorney; if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one. At the point of what can be characterized as a custodial interrogation, it is highly recommended you do not answer any questions nor voluntarily provide your own narrative of the facts without the prior advice of legal counsel.
This blog is not intended as legal advice. Each situation requires a proper and thorough evaluation of all of the facts and circumstances. It is noteworthy that there are many articles on the above subject matter. In addition, you can view more information by clicking the topic Probable Cause and Miranda rights.