Getting pulled over by a police officer can be a harrowing experience. A driver may or may not know why they are being stopped, and what happens next can depend on how they react. The best advice is to remain calm and to respond to inquiries and directions. The situation can easily escalate, so it is important to understand what the police are allowed to do in these situations.
How Should I Pull Over?
When a driver realizes that a police vehicle is following them with the lights and sirens on, that driver needs to pull over right away. The motorist can put on an indicator and move to a safe location on the right, like the shoulder of the road or a parking lot. Continuing to drive down the road is not recommended because it can frustrate the officer.
After stopping the car, the engine can be turned off and the window rolled down. Removing chewing gum, extinguishing cigarettes, and putting both hands on the wheel can help put the officer at ease. Police officers do not always know what to expect at traffic stops.
What Should I Do When Speaking to the Police Officer?
The police officer will approach the vehicle and come to the driver’s window, and it is important to remain calm. Keeping quiet until the officer speaks is the best course of action, and the officer will most likely ask for the license and registration. If the driver has to reach for the glove compartment, purse, or wallet, they should tell the officer first and move slowly and carefully. The officer might shine their flashlight into the car to follow the driver’s hands.
Once the officer has this information, they will probably take it to their vehicle and run a check. Arguing with them is never recommended and could end badly. Drivers who are given citations may need to sign them. This is not an admission of guilt, it is simply an acknowledgment that it has been received.
What if the Officer Escalates the Situation?
Drivers are entitled to certain rights, depending on state laws. When a driver is stopped for an alleged traffic violation, an officer can insist that the motorist and passengers exit the vehicle. If the officer suspects that one of them is dangerous, it is permissible to do a search. The officer can reach in and take an item if it feels like a weapon. Contraband-like drugs may also be seized. In some cases, an officer will want to search inside the car if they feel that there are weapons hidden there.
Police officers cannot search every car that they pull over. They will look for furtive movements, like a passenger who grabs for something. If they see open bottles of alcohol or weapons in plain view, they will search the vehicle. If the driver is arrested and the car ends up getting towed, an inventory search will be made afterwards.
What are My Legal Rights?
Drivers and passengers have certain rights when they are pulled over, including the right to remain silent. Answering questions about a destination is not mandatory, but someone who wants to exercise their rights should say so out loud.
Anyone who is pulled over and is facing arrest also has the right to request a lawyer immediately and is allowed to make a local phone call. If it is made to a lawyer, the police are not allowed to listen in on the conversation.
South Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at Agre & St. John Protect the Rights of Clients Accused of Traffic Violations
Being pulled over by a police officer can be frightening, but you are entitled to certain rights by law. For help with your case, get in touch with a skilled South Jersey criminal defense lawyer at Agre & St. John. Call us at 856-428-7797 or complete our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.