What to do if you are pulled over?

I am asked all the time what the dos and don'ts are of a regular traffic stop, or in particular when being pulled over for a DUI or Driving While Intoxicated. 

  • The first thing you should do is pull over. Pull over as soon as you notice the cop's lights behind you. Pull over safely and smartly. Avoid taking too long or slamming on the brakes. Keep you seatbelt on, and turn the radio off. (Take a second to take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, it is not the end of the world. You have a moment or two before he will walk up to the car)
  •  In my opinion here is where you can help create a nice cop, or a cop with a chip on his shoulder. It can be advisable to do a few things to help the cop to know that he isn't going to be threatened during this stop. 
    • Roll down your window
    • Keep both hands on the steering wheel
    • If it is at night and you know how, turn on your interior lights
    • If you have dark tented windows in the back roll them down as well. 
    • If you have passengers ask them all to be quiet and to keep their hands in their laps. (The last thing you want to do is give a cop a reason to be able to search your vehicle)
    • Do not go rummaging through your glove box for your registration or looking under your seat for your wallet until the officer asks you to do these things. If your glove box is a mess, warn the officer before opening it. They will understand, this is probably not the first time they have seen it. (Although I do think it is a good idea to keep the registration in a place you know it will be)  
    • Do not attempt to get out of the car unless the cop asks you to get out of the car. This will scare a cop into thinking the worst and he will probably pull his gun on you. It is for his safety. He or She does not know if you are a dangerous criminal. Give them this latitude, you do not see everything they see and deal with every day, and it is part of their training. 
  • Do not admit to anything the cop says, but do not lie either. This is where the traffic stop gets to be very scenario dependent and tricky for the driver. Usually a cop will ask you where you were headed and where you were coming from. Saying you were coming from the bar can implicate what you were doing, but saying "I'd rather not say" can do the same thing and raise a police officer's suspicions. Cops can generally tell if you are lying as well and lying may make them upset or even worse think you are doing something wrong.
  • Be prepared that anything the cop can see in "plain view" can be seized for evidence such as drugs or open beer cans. But don't go trying to hide it under your seat either because if the cop sees you hiding things it can raise to the level or reasonable suspicion to give him the ability to search your car. Throwing things out the window while being pulled over can be even worse.
  • Try to remember the most amount of details as possible. What were the road conditions, the weather, the traffic?  
  • A lot of traffic stops these days are being recorded. Be as polite as you can can. However, do not incriminate yourself of any crime. If you are left with no other option, request a lawyer to be present for any further questioning.
  • Last, but not least stay calm, relax, and hope for the best. Most of the time the cop just wants to ask you a few questions and will let you go on your way with a warning or no ticket at all. Cops are there to help us and keep the streets safe for everyone. 

If the worst happens and you are charged with a traffic offense, a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or a crime, contact a Charleston Criminal Defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Call me, Thomas A. Smith at (843) 212-3205 for a free consultation.