When you see the blue lights flashing behind you, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure what to do. This is a normal experience, but not particularly useful. Regardless of why a police officer pulls you over, you stand a much better chance of avoiding criminal charges or fighting any charges you receive by remaining calm and being very careful with what you say during the interaction.
If you do receive a ticket or criminal charges, remember that this is not the end of the process. You may still have time to build a strong legal defense and fight the charges or minimize the consequences, as long as you act soon and take the matter very seriously. If you need personal guidance building a legal defense, an experienced defense attorney can help you examine your interaction with the police officer and identify tools you can use to protect your rights.
The officer is always gathering evidence
When an officer pulls you over, he or she is already gathering evidence before stepping out of the cruiser. It is wise to pull over quickly after you see lights flashing, in a place that is safe for the officer to approach the vehicle. Turn off the engine, roll down the window and put your hands on the steering wheel while the officer approaches.
The officer may ask you a number of questions, which you choose to answer or not. Under the law, you must only tell the officer your name and show an official form of identification. The less you say, the less information an officer has to build a case against you. If an officer asks a question you do not want to answer, you may simply say that you don’t want to answer any more questions without your attorney present.
Do not give an officer permission to search your vehicle
In some cases, an officer may ask you for permission to search your vehicle. It is rarely advisable to give an officer this permission. In order for an officer to search your vehicle, he or she must either have a search warrant for that specific vehicle, or be able to see or otherwise discern evidence of a potential crime. Without one of these justifications, the officer does not have the legal authority to search your vehicle.
Therefore, there is no reason you should give your permission. The officer is only trying to find some reason to charge you with a crime. Even if you have nothing to hide, you also have nothing to gain from allowing a search of your vehicle.
Protect your rights as soon as you can
If an officer does not issue you a ticket or criminal charge, but keeps you in a stop, you may ask if you are free to go. Should the officer instead issue you a ticket or criminal charge, you must begin building your defense immediately, because the prosecution is also building its case against you as soon as you receive charges.
The longer you have to scrutinize the events of the stop and the evidence against you, the better chance you have of ultimately overcoming the charges or reducing the consequences.