As defense attorneys, we often have clients who were pulled over by an officer before they were arrested. Being pulled over is never a fun experience, but there are certain ways to behave that will ease your communication with police, keep you safe, and potentially prevent a ticket or arrest. Whenever you are pulled over, keep the perspective of the officer in mind. You may have done nothing wrong in your view, but remember that the police officer does not know who you are, or if they are approaching a dangerous person. However, if you do everything in your power to communicate that you are not a threat, your interaction with the police is likely to go a lot smoother. In this blog, we will go over some essential tips for communicating with a police officer when you have been pulled over in your car.
When The Officer Approaches…
…be aware of how your behavior is being watched. Put the car in park, roll down the window, turn off the car, and place your hands on the steering wheel so that they can be seen. Be mindful of how any quick movements may look suspicious and could be probable cause for searching your car if it looks like you are hiding something. Wait until the officer asks you for your license and registration to begin looking for them, because rifling through your glove compartment or pockets could look like you are withdrawing a weapon.
When you are pulled over, cooperate with any request from the police officer (as long as it is legal). An officer is not required by law to tell you why you are being pulled over initially. Additionally, the officer may ask for your name and address, and may request you either stay in or get out of your car. Remaining cooperative and polite throughout the interaction can only help.
Let Them Control The Conversation
It is important to not act in a way that will look suspicious to the officer, so don’t react defensively. Allow the officer to dictate the conversation. They will ask for your license and registration; if you need to reach into the glove compartment to retrieve either of these items, tell the officer first and wait for their permission. Additionally, resist the temptation to tell your side of the story. The officer may appear open to hearing your version of events, but anything you say could be incriminating and used against you in court. They may be trying to get you to confess to the crime, so don’t apologize for anything, as this is an admission of guilt.
Keep It Brief
When the officer asks you questions, do not lie, but keep it as brief as possible. When the officer asks if you know why you were pulled over, your answer should be, “No.” Keep your answers to their questions to “yes” or “no,” and don’t respond with anything substantive. Nodding and using non-committal phrases such as, “I see,” and “I understand” is the best approach. If you are concerned, you do not have to answer any questions at all. After all, if you remain silent, the officer cannot get an admission of guilt to be used in court.
Refuse A Search
If the officer asks to search your car, you should refuse. When you consent to a search, it makes it substantially more difficult to challenge any evidence they find. Also, if the officer has grounds to search your car, it will happen whether you consent or not. Generally, officers will ask for consent because they do not have legal grounds to search. The officer may pat you down for weapons should they believe you are dangerous, and may look further if they feel anything that seems to be a weapon.
Drinking And Driving
Drinking and driving is never smart, but there are ways to behave during a traffic stop that can make it worse. If you have been drinking, even if you believe you are under the legal limit, do not admit this to the officer; silence will serve you better. In South Carolina, you can refuse a field sobriety test without penalty, but it may cast suspicion on you. Additionally, if the officer asks to breathalyze or perform another chemical test on you, refusing has consequences; in the Palmetto State, your license will automatically be suspended for six months due to the Implied Consent law, which states that when you receive a driver’s license, you automatically consent to these chemical tests.
With all this in mind, a traffic stop may still not go in your favor. If you are arrested, you need legal representation for the best possible outcome in court. At The De Bruin Law Firm, we are experienced defense attorneys who may be able to help. Contact us today to learn more!