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What cars get pulled over the most?

Dealing With Police During Traffic Stops: What to Do If You Are Pulled Over

What you do and say after a traffic stop can be big. Learn what to do when you get pulled over, and how to interact with the officer.

When a police officer begins to pull you over, what you do and say can have a huge effect on any legal proceedings that might follow. Whether the traffic stop ends in a simple moving violation or an arrest for a more serious crime, your choices are critical.

Getting Pulled Over: When You See the Police Car

If a police car is following you with its siren blaring or emergency lights flashing, pull over to the right quickly (but safely) and come to a complete stop in a safe place.

Pulling over right away isn’t an admission of guilt. It just means that you were alert to everything that was happening around you. Also, by stopping as soon as you can, you’ll have a better chance of figuring out exactly where and how the officer says you violated any traffic laws. This information can be useful should you and a lawyer later need to prepare a defense.

Pull over in a way that will be most likely to calm down an angry or annoyed traffic officer. Use your turn signal to indicate any lane changes from left to right, and slow down fairly quickly, but not so quickly that the officer will have to brake to avoid hitting you. Pull over as far to the right as possible, so that the officer won’t have to worry about being clipped by vehicles in the right lane when coming up to your window.

Once You Pull Over: What to Do Right After You Stop

After you’ve pulled over to a safe spot, you should normally turn off your engine. At this point, you might want to show the officer a few other token courtesies. You have little to lose and perhaps something to gain.

Roll down your window all the way. Put out a cigarette if you have one and discard any chewing gum (within the car). You might also want to place your hands on the steering wheel, and, if it’s dark, turn on your interior light. These actions will tend to allay any fears the officer might have. After all, police officers have been killed in traffic-stop situations, and the officer’s approach to the vehicle is potentially the most dangerous moment.

Your dignity might be offended a little at this point, but remember that you’re just doing a few simple things to put the officer in an optimal frame of mind.

Also, stay in the car until and unless the officer directs you to get out. Finally, don’t start rummaging through your back pocket for your wallet and license, or in your glove compartment for your registration, until the officer asks you for them. For all the officer knows, you could be reaching for a weapon.

Do I Have to Get Out of My Car During a Traffic Stop?

As previously noted, you don’t want to get out of your car during a traffic stop unless you’re told to do so by an officer. But if the officer requests you get out, do you have to comply?

An officer who stops you for an alleged traffic violation has the right to insist that you and your passengers get out of your car. (Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977); Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997).) Clearly, you should get out if asked or instructed to do so. Simply put: You should follow the officer’s directives but begin with the assumption that you should remain in the car. And you should also assume that the officer is on alert, ready to interpret a failure to follow instructions as a threat of danger or an attempt to flee.

Can Police Search Me or My Car During a Traffic Stop?

In general, a police officer who stops you for a traffic violation is not allowed to search your vehicle. There are several exceptions to this general rule. However, it’s important to note that the applicability of these exceptions might depend on the laws of your state.

Quick Movements by the Driver or Passengers

After pulling you over, an officer will watch for any sort of «furtive movement.» A sudden lowering of one or both shoulders, for example, will tip the officer off that you’re attempting to hide something under the seat.

Illegal Activity the Officer Can See From Outside of the Vehicle

An officer enforcing a traffic stop isn’t looking just for furtive movements. Officers will look for anything incriminating that’s in «plain view» (like open beer or wine bottles, joints, or roach clips). Discovery of one item in plain view often leads to a thorough search that reveals more incriminating or illegal objects.

Searches for Weapons

An officer who has any reason to suspect that you might be dangerous has a right to conduct a quick «pat-down» search of your outer clothing. (Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323 (2009).) Upon feeling any weapon-like object during the pat-down, the officer can reach in and get it. The officer can also seize anything during a proper frisk for weapons that obviously feels like contraband.

Also, if the police officer reasonably believes you’re dangerous and might gain control of weapons, the officer can search areas within the passenger compartment in which a weapon could be placed or hidden. (Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983).)

Vehicle Searches Following the Driver’s Arrest

If you’re arrested and your car is towed, the police may generally make an «inventory search» afterward, even if they have no reason to suspect there’s anything illegal inside.

What About My Cellphone?

What if the officer asks to search your cellphone? May you politely decline? The rule is that officers generally may not search cellphones without warrants—or your consent.

Talking to the Officer

Drivers being hostile has led to many a problem with police officers. So too has saying more than necessary.

You should generally let the officer do the talking, responding where appropriate. For example, when asked to hand over your license, registration, and proof of insurance, you should say something like, «Okay,» or, «Sure,» and fork over the documents.

Some lawyers caution that an officer who pulls you over for a traffic violation has decided whether to give you a ticket before approaching your car. (They also acknowledge that rude behavior will sometimes be rewarded with a ticket, though you would have otherwise received a warning.) These lawyers warn that officers will sometimes act as though they might change their minds if you cooperate so that they can get information or an admission out of you.

It can be tough to know exactly what to say to an officer’s queries, but whatever you do, you shouldn’t argue. And you should know that you have a right to remain silent, although you might have to actually say something to invoke that right.

Talking to a Lawyer

Simple traffic violations often don’t require the assistance of an attorney. More serious accusations—like a charge of driving under the influence or possession of drugs—often do. If you want to know how the law in your state applies to your situation, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can determine whether there might be a basis for a motion to suppress evidence and otherwise guide you through the process.

How Not To Get Pulled Over By The Cops

When you’re out driving around, the last thing you want to deal with is an encounter with the police. For most of us, a police encounter begins with a traffic stop. Not only do you not want to deal with the delay of a traffic stop or the fines and points from a traffic ticket, but you never know what kind of insanity could ensue when you are dealing with the police. The police are hunting for ways to cite you and take your money, so just don’t give them the opportunity in the first place and don’t get pulled over. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re out on the road.

Not getting pulled over is all about not calling attention to yourself – not standing out from all of the other drivers on the road.

  • Drive a discreet car. For example, compare a completely stock gray station wagon to a lime green Camaro with an aftermarket exhaust. The first wouldn’t get a second glance, whereas the second would be difficult to miss.
  • Get a good tint job on your car. Keep it legal, but go dark. Why let that cop stare in at you to see what you are doing in your car?
  • Don’t speed. I know, I know, everyone speeds, but speeding is probably the most common reason traffic stops occur.
  • If you must speed, don’t go more than about 5 mph over the posted speed limit. We’re not advocating speeding (see above), but we’re realistic. While a cop could pull you over for going just a mile or two per hour over the limit (it happens), it is unusual. Cops are usually looking for bigger fish, like someone driving at excessive speeds. Look to photo enforcement devices for guidance: In Arizona, photo enforcement devices generate tickets when they catch a driver going 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit, unless it is in a school zone and then it is 6 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Don’t be the fastest thing on the road. Pretend you’re a Zebra – there is safety in the heard. Just blend in with the other cars instead of getting out in front of the heard.
  • Don’t cut across a bunch of lanes all at once. This is a real eye-catcher. You’ve probably seen it happen yourself if you’ve been driving in Phoenix for awhile. You can be driving along with the flow of traffic, then all of a sudden you see a car move across your field of vision, swerving across 4 lanes of traffic. You can’t miss it, and neither will the cops! You could get pulled over for a variety of violations for a maneuver like this, like speeding, unsafe lane change, following too closely, and perhaps aggressive driving if you’re particularly unlucky.
  • Don’t weave in and out of traffic. See above. Rapidly and repeatedly changing lanes is the kind of movement that makes you stand out from the other drivers.
  • Keep your car in good repair. If you have a headlight or taillight out, or if your windshield is badly damaged, that is just inviting a cop to pull you over.
  • Keep your auto insurance current. Lapsed insurance can lead to a registration suspension. See the next point.
  • Keep your registration current, make sure the registration tag on your car is current (and belongs to your car and not someone else!), and keep your insurance current. Why? See the next point.
  • I generally try to never be in front of a cop car if I can help it. When a police officer is sitting behind you at a light, he’s staring at your license plate, checking your registration, seeing if the registered owner’s license is valid and so on. In other words, he’s looking at you and your car and searching for a reason to pull you over and issue a ticket. If you’re driving in front of a cop, he’s looking for even the most minor of violations to pull you over. Maybe he’ll say you were “swerving within your lane”, or you failed to signal for a turn, or you made a wide turn, who knows, but don’t give them the opportunity!
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