Most of the time, traffic stops in Prince William County take at least 10 or 15 minutes from start to finish. Once the officer signals a driver to pull over, the officer will follow closely until there is a stop, and then park somewhere behind the target vehicle. It is not uncommon for the officer to summon additional cruisers and police to the stop, or for multiple officers to be involved in the stop who were riding in the same vehicle. Prince William County has a number of major state and interstate highways running through it, so many stops will be conducted by Virginia State Troopers instead of local police officers.
Read below to learn more about what to expect at a traffic stop in Prince William County. And if you are facing charges, get in touch with an experienced traffic lawyer today.
At a traffic stop, the officer will usually approach the driver’s side window and expect the driver to crack the window in order to communicate. License and registration will be requested, and the officer will return to their vehicle for a lengthy period of time while they run computer checks on the person’s information. During these checks, the police are searching for valid licenses and license plates, valid identities, and whether there are any outstanding warrants that need to be served on the driver for other things. They are also slowly filling out the ticket paperwork that they have to complete to create a charge and a corresponding court date. When they are done with paperwork and computer checks in their cruiser, the officer will walk back to the driver’s side window and return the driver’s things, as well as serve them with their offense paperwork.
Usually, the officer makes other contextual comments during the stop such as asking someone if they are from the area, why they were driving in the way they were, and if they understand what they are being charged with. If there is a problem with leaving the vehicle where it is pulled over, and there is no one with a valid driver’s license around that can move the vehicle instead of the defendant, the police will likely tow the vehicle. If during the interaction with the stopped driver the police observe other things suggesting other offenses have been committed, such as indications of drunk driving or possession of drugs, the officer will begin a separate investigation for those once the initial traffic charge is resolved.
A driver who hears sirens or sees patrol lights in their rear-view mirror should immediately begin to pull to the sides of the roadway and reduce their speed, to the extent feasible. Other vehicles in the area will likely already be doing this. If the lights and sirens persist behind someone’s vehicle despite space for other vehicles to pass, then the driver should pull over out of the lanes of traffic into the nearest, safest roadway space available to submit to the pursuing law enforcement vehicle. It is possible that the pursuing vehicle will keep going because the target vehicle is actually another vehicle ahead on the roadway, but pulling over out of caution is always the most prudent option to take in that situation. Usually, officers are lax about the normal rules regarding lane changes when they disrupt traffic, but blinkers should still be used as a best practice when changing lanes in response to sirens or lights.
The location at which a driver should pull over is situational. If they are on a highway with decent-sized shoulders, then they should pull over into the shoulders. If they are on a roadway that has rest areas or turn-ins for parking lots, they should pull over after turning into those. If there is simply nowhere other than a lane of traffic to pull over, then the driver should move their car as much to the side of the road as possible before pulling over, and pick a lesser or slower lane of traffic to come to a stop in (such as a turn lane). Officers worry about traffic stops which impeded the safety or flow of other nearby traffic, so they may direct the driver to move elsewhere if they think it is not a suitable position in which to conduct a traffic stop. As a precautionary measure, drivers can turn on their flashers or blinkers in response to being signaled by law enforcement in order to demonstrate that the driver is in the process of locating a safe place to pull over.
If you have any questions about what to expect at a traffic stop in Prince William County and your rights, reach out to an accomplished lawyer today. A dedicated attorney could help you understand your rights and how to act at a traffic stop.