Whether an officer has pulled you over for a routine traffic stop or because they have reason to believe you were driving under the influence, it can be a scary experience. Knowing how to behave during a situation like this can help you protect yourself and your rights.
Wait for instruction
Don’t try to gather your license or reach into your glove box for vehicle registration information. Even though an officer will likely ask for it when they reach your window, if they observe too much movement from you, they may become suspicious. Even worse, an officer could interpret your movements as threatening and take action against you.
Try your best to remain calm and keep both hands on your steering wheel. And never get out of your car unless an officer asks you to.
Be mindful of what you say
You have nothing to lose from speaking with the officer in a calm, respectful manner. In addition, saying too little when a police officer pulls you over is usually better than saying too much. Don’t try to explain yourself out of the situation or make up excuses. This may only incriminate you further.
Keep in mind that you want to let the officer do most of the talking. If you feel obligated to answer their questions, or if they push you for an answer, don’t feel that you have to give a long explanation. And definitely don’t argue back. Short, simple answers might work better in your favor. Remember, an officer is looking to prove your guilt.
Know your rights
If an officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you should do so. They may conduct a pat-down or have you perform a field sobriety test. However, it’s your right to refuse to submit to a roadside test. And sometimes, it can be in your best interest to do so. Often times, field tests can have skewed results. Nerves, age or disability might make you fail a test. Roadside breath tests aren’t always accurate either.
While it’s legal for you to refuse a field sobriety test, it may give an officer probable cause to arrest you. However, your refusal cannot be used as evidence against you if your arrest leads to a court hearing.
Understand your options
If a traffic stop leads to something more serious, you may not know how to handle your situation or what options you may have. Seeking legal guidance from an experienced attorney can help you navigate the aftermath of an arrest.