No one enjoys being pulled over by police. It can be a stressful situation, and if you aren’t careful, things can go bad quickly. Learning how to handle a police encounter can help you stay safe and avoid conflict.
It is worth remembering that it is not up to private citizens to de-escalate a situation – this is the responsibility of police officers. However, you should never assume that officers will act in a manner that protects your safety. Additionally, you cannot be confident they will respect your rights even if you assert them.
It is possible to reduce the risk to yourself by remaining calm and not being hostile toward the police. Unfortunately, situations can end badly, even if you do this correctly.
Steps to Take When Pulled Over by the Police
If police pull you over, it is best to take the following steps:
- Pull your vehicle over to the right side of the road as far as possible.
- Turn the engine off.
- Turn the interior light in your vehicle on if you are stopped at night.
- Put your hands on the steering wheel until the officer evaluates their safety while approaching your vehicle.
- Do not make any reaching or sudden movements.
- Remain in your vehicle until the officer asks you to exit it.
- If you have a weapon, let the officer know about it and where it is.
- Have your documents ready.
- Follow all instructions given by the officer.
Understanding Your Rights When Stopped by the Police
When stopped by the police, you have the following rights:
You do not have to answer questions about where you have been, where you are going, what you are doing, or where you live. If you want to exercise your right to remain silent, let the officer know this. While true, you must give the officer your name if required.
You do not have to permit the officer to search your person or belongings. However, police can pat you down over your clothing if they suspect you may have a weapon. Refusing consent to this may not keep the officer from searching you or your property; however, objecting to this can help you preserve your rights if you must go to court.
If the police arrest you, you have the right to legal counsel. If you cannot afford a criminal defense attorney, you have the right to one appointed by the government.
You do not have to answer questions about citizenship, where you were born, or how you got into the country. It is important to note that different rules apply to some situations. If you are an immigrant, it is smart to know your rights.
What to Do if You Are Arrested or Detained
If the officer detains or arrests you, restate your wish to remain silent and ask for an attorney. Do not provide excuses or explanations. Never say something that may incriminate you, sign anything, or decide what to do without a lawyer’s advice.
Being arrested can be scary; however, you have the right to make a phone call in this situation. The police cannot listen to your call if you contact a lawyer. However, they can (and likely will) listen if you call someone else.
Were Your Rights Violated?
If you believe your rights were violated, you should write down everything you can remember about the encounter, such as patrol car numbers, officers’ badge numbers, and the agency the officers worked for. If witnesses saw what happened, get their contact information.
Sometimes, injuries occur. Be sure to seek or request medical treatment and take photos of your physical injuries.
File a written complaint with the internal affairs division at the agency or with the civilian complaint board. You may be able to file your complaint anonymously.
Let Our Legal Team Help with Your Situation
You must note that you can deny consent to search your body, belongings, and vehicle. However, if the police have reasonable suspicion to believe you were committing a crime or engaging in criminal activity, they do not need your permission.
While this is the case, they have to prove that they had suspicion if your case goes to court. We encourage you to contact our criminal defense attorneys at Alvine Law Firm for assistance. Our legal team can work to discredit their argument and show that the police violated your rights (if this is what happened).
We understand how stressful it can be to be stopped by the police. If you are arrested, you need legal representation. We have decades of experience representing individuals in and around South Dakota. We can provide you with the quality and knowledgeable representation you need to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.