What should I do when stopped by the police?

Even if you’ve committed no crime, being stopped by the police is stressful. This is especially true in light of many recent events, which includes multiple instances of law enforcement using excessive and unwarranted force on ordinary citizens. Rewire explains your rights and responsibilities when pulled over by the police. While this information doesn’t always guarantee a smooth interaction with law enforcement, it can assist you in mitigating the situation when possible.

Comply with the officer’s commands

Following an officer’s instructions not only helps you, it also increases the chance that any actions you take against the police officer will be successful when wrongdoing has occurred. For instance, if an officer asks you to step outside the vehicle it’s best to do so calmly and slowly so not to arouse suspicion. When it comes to searches of your vehicle, however, the law works strongly in your favor.

Don’t allow a search of your vehicle

The fourth amendment bans unlawful searches and seizures. As a result, you’re fully within your rights to deny an officer’s request if he or she does not have a warrant. Keep in mind that the officer may search your vehicle anyway, but anything found is unlikely to be admissible in court unless the officer can prove that the search was warranted. Even if you have nothing to hide you still should not consent to an unlawful search.

Know how to deescalate a situation

You don’t have to answer questions without an attorney present. However, it’s best to get clarification on the matter by asking whether you are free to go. If so, move away from the scene in a careful manner. If you’re being arrested and you believe it’s without cause, make a note of the officers’ names and badge numbers so you can file a complaint afterward. You’re also permitted to record the incident, but be extremely careful when reaching for a concealed phone in the presence of law enforcement. Loudly state your intentions before doing so and make sure you comply with officer commands. In situations where you fear for your safety, you can call 911 and report the incident.

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