Traffic Violations – the Basics

| Jan 17, 2020 | Firm News |

Throughout a person’s life, it is almost inevitable that they will be pulled over at least once. Whether you’re speeding, running a red light or a stop-sign, or talking on the phone, there are many things that you can be pulled over for. Bearing that in mind, it’s important to know your rights, and how to handle these interactions with police.

1.      Be Courteous to the Police Officer

Being pulled over can be very intimidating, and often people do not know what to do. When you see the police car pulling up behind you, lights and sirens going, be sure to turn on your signal and pull over at the next safe location. When you pull over, make sure that you put your car in park and roll down your window all the way. If you’re wearing sunglasses, take them off and put them on the dashboard. If your radio is on, turn it off. If it’s dark outside, turn on your interior lights. When the officer approaches, have your hands visible on the steering wheel. Doing these things shows the officer that you are willing to cooperate with them, and more importantly it puts them at ease. Remember, traffic stops for police officers can often be unpredictable, and sometimes even dangerous, so showing that you are cooperative and putting them at ease is very important.

2.        Remember That You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Remember that you have a constitutional right to remain silent and to refuse to admit to anything that might incriminate you. This includes not having to answer the questions “do you know how fast you were going,” “didn’t you see that stop sign,” “why didn’t you stop at that red light,” and any other questions that might result in an incriminating response. Remember, the officer may write down anything you say related to your guilt, and it will then be used against you at your traffic court trial. This does not mean that you do not have to give them your identification information though. When the officer requests your license and registration, just let them know that you’re going to retrieve them and where they are located inside of your vehicle. Other than giving them your identification information, you do not have to admit to anything that they may be accusing you of.

3.      You Have the Right to Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle and Your Person

While there are some situations where police may have the right to search your vehicle or your person, you never have an obligation to consent to that search. What that means, is if the police ask you if it’s okay for them to search you or your vehicle, your response can (and should) be unequivocally “No.” They may then conduct the search anyway, but whether or not they were allowed to conduct that search may be an issue that is litigated later by your attorney. In your situation, they may not have had the right to conduct the search, but by consenting to the search you may accidentally give them that right. With that being said, this does not mean that you should in any way attempt to physically prevent them from conducting the search. The best practice when dealing with law enforcement is to be as courteous as possible, and you certainly never want to get into a physical altercation with the police officer.

4.      Ask the Officer Why he Pulled You Over

While you should never admit to anything that might incriminate you in the future, you should find out why the officer stopped you. After the interaction with police, and when you are at a safe location to do so, be sure to write down everything you remember about the interaction. Try to remember and record all of the following information:

A.      Where the incident occurred.

B.      Why you were pulled over.

C.      Where the officer was parked when he might have observed you.

D.      Whether there were any signs or other objects that might have obstructed his view.

E.      What the traffic conditions were like that day.

F.      What the weather conditions were like that day.

G.      Whether the officer had a partner with him.

H.      Whether the officer was courteous or rude to you during the interaction.

I.      Anything else that stands out in your mind, that you think may become important later at a potential traffic court trial.

5.      You Have the Right to Film the Encounter

Remember, while many police officers wear body worn cameras, it is up to them when they turn them on and off. You also have the right to film the encounter. However, be sure to be cautious when/how you pick up your phone to record the encounter. You certainly do not want the officer to claim you were talking on your phone because you grabbed it after you were already pulled over. You also do not want the officer to feel threatened as you reach for your phone that’s buried in your bag. Just remember to be careful in choosing when/how to film an encounter with police.

So in summary, (1) Be courteous, (2) You have the right to remain silent, (3) You have the right to refuse a search, (4) Ask the officer why he pulled you over, and (5) You have the right to film. Of course, if you have received a traffic violation, or have been arrested for any other offense, be sure to contact an experienced attorney to help you.

Everyone drive safely!