Pulled Over: Your Rights and Safety
You’re driving to work, staying within the speed limit and following all the rules of the road. Or so you think. Then, you suddenly see those blue and red lights in your rearview mirror. You’ve been pulled over!
Getting pulled over can be a stressful situation, especially if you don’t know what you did wrong. Your natural reaction might be scared or defensive. But when you’ve been pulled over, it’s important to stay calm and rational.
A Safe Reaction
The first thing you should do is acknowledge the police officer. If you can’t pull over right away, turn on your flasher to let the officer know you see them. Remember, you do not have to pull over right away, like if you are surrounded by heavy traffic or in a poorly lit area. A police officer will likely understand that you are taking steps to secure you own safety. However, you should still pull over as soon as possible.
Once you have come to a safe stop, stay in your car. You should not get out of your vehicle, as the police officer will come to you. Turn off your car and roll down your driver’s side window. If it is dark out, turn on the light inside your car so that the officer can clearly see you. You should also keep both hands on the steering wheel. If you reach for something in your car, even if you are simply trying to pick up a cell phone, a police officer could think you are reaching for a weapon.
You should always try to be polite rather than combative—remember, the police officer is just doing their job of keeping the roads and community safe. However, it is okay to keep your answers short and you don’t have to admit guilt, especially if you do not know why you are pulled over. It is okay to answer with “no” or “I don’t know” to questions like “do you know why I pulled you over?”
You also don’t have to consent to a search of your vehicle. Before they can do a search, an officer needs probable cause, like if your car smells like marijuana or if there are beer bottle visible on the floor. If they do not have probable cause, you are allowed to exercise your Fourth Amendment rights and refuse to give consent to search.
Finally, be safe when merging back into traffic once the officer says you are free to go! The last thing you want is to get into a car accident or do an illegal maneuver while a cop is still right behind you.
Why People Get Pulled Over
You can also take steps to avoid getting pulled over in the first place. You should always practice safe driving behavior, which means avoiding speeding, texting while driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, be aware of some of the most common reasons for getting pulled over. They include:
- Speeding (or driving too slow!)
- Broken taillights
- Illegal U-turns
- Illegally tinted windows
- Covered or obscured license plates
Of course, safe driving is about more than avoiding a ticket—it’s about keeping the roads safe for everyone!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.