Being pulled over by police can be a nerve-racking experience no matter who you are, especially if you don’t come into contact with law enforcement frequently. With this in mind, the following are some frequently asked questions regarding traffic stops answered by an experienced Arlington traffic lawyer. For more specific information call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.
If the police officer approaches and asks you to roll down the window, then you should probably roll down the window. Whether you have to or not is another question, but you don’t want to be charged with a new crime of obstructing justice or obstructing the police officer in his or her lawful duties. So, most attorneys would recommend rolling down your window, speaking to police, and being cordial.
Well, when you’re with the police, you want to avoid any admissions that can be used against you later in court such as admitting to speeding, admitting to not having a license, or admitting that your license was suspended. You don’t have to give police that information. You don’t have to make their case easier.
There’s a human instinct to try to cooperate with police and try to say what you think they want you to say, but you don’t have to. It’s better if you keep your mouth shut and deal with any issues in court because the police will probably issue a summons either way, and then your statements can be used against you. At the same time, however, I recommend that you always be polite and cordial because police do take that into account when speaking to a prosecutor or a judge when determining whether to break down charges in the future.
Once the officer approaches you, they will probably ask you for your license and registration. They may ask you if you knew what you did wrong, whether you knew how fast you were going, whether you saw the speed limit, or whether you knew what the speed limit was. They’ll ask any questions that would help them understand the situation or obtain evidence to prove that you knew you were doing something wrong or illegal. They will then typically take your license and registration back to the vehicle where they will run it to see if you are wanted on other charges and to make sure you are duly licensed. They’re also checking the registration of the car to make sure it’s not stolen.
They will then walk back with those documents to ask you some more questions if they have any. At which point, they will issue you a summons and ask you to sign it. If you sign it and promise to appear, they will most likely release you on your summons at that time unless you have outstanding warrants, or are wanted somewhere, or have prior occasions where you failed to appear.
Always wait until you’re asked until grabbing for your registration. Doing so beforehand can look like you’re making a “furtive” movement with your hand. A “furtive” movement is a police and legal term for a secretive movement, that is often used by police to justify the detention or use of force. By reaching into your glove compartment to grab your registration, police may wrongly infer that you’re reaching for a gun or trying to hide contraband.
For this reason, you should wait for the officer’s instructions rather than automatically reaching for your registration. Complying with their instructions will make your stop with the police run more smoothly and can only benefit you. There’s no need to have the registration in your hand when police pull you over if they need it they will ask for it. So, I would always recommend waiting until a police officer gives you instruction rather than just grabbing your registration from your glove box or wherever it may be.
When you pull over to the side of the road, you should just follow police instructions and automatically put the car in park. When the police come up, wait for any instructions from them about whether they want you to turn the vehicle off or whether they want you to keep the keys in the ignition. Wait for instructions from the police. Follow their instructions and comply with what they’re asking you.
In general, you should expect the same thing during a night stop. You always want to be very cautious but you also want to respond to police instructions and be cooperative and polite.
Otherwise, everything stays the same. Listen to police instructions, don’t grab your registration because that could scare the police and could even make them think you’re hiding contraband or grabbing a weapon. Keep the car running until they tell you not to. When police ask for your license and registration, provide it to them.
Your car should be pretty well lit up from the police officer’s light. Keep your hands where the police can see them and keep your hands on the wheel. If they ask you to turn your light on, you can determine whether you want to do it at that time, but there’s no reason to adjust your light as soon as police pull you over.