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What do I do if a cop pulls me over in my vehicle?

October 29, 2011

2. Law, 4. Arrest

What do I do if a cop pulls me over in my vehicle?

As the question suggests, pull over.  The flashing red lights give the cop the right to pull you over.  It’s not an option.  For example, Volunteer Firemen/women have blue lights – pulling over to get out of their way is optional (although you’d be a goof for not doing so).  Flashing red lights mandate a response.  Pull over, and be sure to be completely off the roadway.

First, stay in your vehicle unless directed to get out.  What’s a vehicle?  Just about anything capable of propelling you on a public road – a car, a horse, a bike, a golf cart – anything.  Yes, you can get a DUI when riding a horse.  A guy up the road got one when operating a rider lawnmower.

Why stay in your car?  You are doing everything to end the interaction as quickly as possible and with the least amount of variables.  You haven’t had a drink, yet your foot catches the interior on the way out.  You might have just bought yourself a sobriety check.  And I am really sick of hearing the “I took NyQuil” defense.  Also, cops have specific training on safety when standing and walking close to active roadways – you don’t.  Some clown comes barreling down the road drunk off his butt and picks you off, well, too bad, eh?  Stay in the car.

Don’t get anything ready to hand the cop until asked.  Keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight.  Remember – the cop most likely knows nothing about you.  He’s heard or has horror stories about pulling over a guy for a routine traffic ticket and all of a sudden a gun fight breaks out.  Cut him a break.  He’s got family, too.

He’ll often pop off with the infuriating question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”   Don’t be a wise ass.  Let him control the conversation.  “All due respect, officer, you pulled me over.  You tell me,” can be said if delivered appropriately.  Your goal is to end the entire affair quickly and with nothing out of the ordinary for the cop to remember.  So respond to his questions, but otherwise shut up.  If he’s going to let you off with a warning, he’ll do it on his own – not because you asked.  Whatever story you have has been heard before.

“Do you mind if I search your car?” is a wonderful request.  “All due respect, officer, yes, I do mind.  I have an expectation of privacy in my vehicle.  I deny your request to search my car.”  Maybe he’ll say that you’ll have to wait for him to get a drug dog to walk around the car.  “OK.  We’ll both wait.”  He can walk around the vehicle to observe things in “plain sight” and “plain smell.”  Let him – as long as he stays outside the car.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll be driving away within a minute of him asking for the search.  Don’t get bullied into allowing your car to be searched.  You know anyone that smokes pot?  Do you?  You know every person that has sat in the car and whether or not they smoke weed?  A marijuana seed on the floor is enough to bust you – even if you gave up toking decades ago.  You are absolutely and completely responsible for everything in your car.  Do not allow a search.  If the cop has a legal basis for searching your car, he’ll do it without asking.  Be very clear – “I deny your request to search my car.”

And refuse to sign any paper other than the ticket.  Some forms give permission to have your car searched.  Be sure to read over the ticket for accuracy.

When you pull back into traffic, do everything according to the law.  And if the cop pulls out behind you, make the first legal turn you can – with turn signal – to allow him to go about his merry way.  End the interaction on every level as quickly as possible.

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

View all posts by Clyde

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