How to Interact with Police if You Get Pulled Over

How to Interact with Police if You Get Pulled Over

Jane Meggitt
 | 
You hear the siren and see the flashing lights. A police officer is signaling you to pull over your vehicle. How you interact with police if you are pulled over can literally mean the difference between life and death.

In 2016, Philando Castile, a 32 year old Black man was pulled over in a traffic stop in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. Minutes later, he was shot dead by a police officer as his girlfriend, who was sitting next to him, streamed the encounter live from her phone. Castile was shot while reaching for his identification because he was carrying a gun. He had told the officer he had a gun, and the officer replied that he should not reach for it. “I’m not pulling it out,” said Castile, but seconds later, the officer sent a volley of bullets into the car.

The case made national headlines. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, later told investigators he fired because Castile continued moving after being told not to, and was reaching down to put his hand on something. That something was the ID, but the result was a terrible tragedy.

There are too many people like Philando Castile dying at the hands of police officers. Still, he may have been alive today had he acted just a bit differently at the time of the stop.

Here are the rules you must follow when the police pull you over:

Stay in the Vehicle

Do not exit the vehicle under any circumstances unless told to do so by the police. Always wait for the officer to approach your vehicle rather than leaving your car to approach the police.

Turn off the car.
Partially open the window. If it is dark outside, turn on the
interior light. When the interior is well-lit, the officer is less concerned about weapons or other potential threats. Put your hands on the steering wheel. A person in the passenger seat should put their hands on the dashboard.

Never, ever, run from the police.

Stay Calm

Getting pulled over is stressful and scary. Always stay as calm as possible. Do not show hostility toward the police. Never threaten the officer. Avoid sudden movements. Control your mouth and your body language. Show the officer your driver’s license, insurance card and registration when requested.

Keep Your Hands in Sight

Always keep your hands in sight so the police can see them. Not doing this may have proved fatal to Philando Castile. If there are passengers, tell them to keep their hands visible at all times.

Know Your Rights

Learn your rights before you are pulled over. Those rights include:
  • The right to remain silent –Tell the officer you are exercising this right rather than just ignoring the officer. You do not have to tell the officer where you are going, where you have been, where you live, or what you are doing. Depending on the state, you may have to provide your name. Failure to identify yourself can result in arrest.
  • The right to deny a search of yourself or your belongings –While you do not have to consent to such a search, you must consent to being patted down if the police officer thinks you are carrying a weapon.
  • The right to an attorney –If you are arrested or the police detain you, inform them you want to speak with an attorney immediately.  Do not sign any documents or say anything else until you have spoken with a lawyer. Remember that anything you say can be used against you in court. After arrest, you may make a phone call to an attorney – and the police cannot listen to that call. They can, however, listen to any other calls they permit you to make.
Thousands of people are pulled over by police daily. Most of these incidents do not end in violence, but some do. There is no guarantee that you will not end up as a statistic, but paying close attention to your interactions with the police will lessen the possibility.
 
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
Jane Meggitt

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