So, I quit watching law shows. I quit watching Dateline. I can’t stand watching other people practice law in court. Because that’s what I do. But I do watch these short videos of people sitting in their cars having conversations with law enforcement officers, because they’re being foolish. What should you do during a traffic stop?
There are a lot of legal arguments out there that I can make about sitting in your car, not talking to the officers, and what your constitutional rights are. We can fight that fight; but it is a silly fight.
The advice I would give my sons if they get pulled over? When the officer approaches the car, you have your hands on the wheel. When the officer comes up to the window, you roll the window down, you put your hands back on the wheel, you turn up to him, you’re polite, and you are proper.
You are nice. Why? Because that guy has a gun. And if you’re not nice, things will escalate. That’s why when I watch those videos I just sit there and I cringe. I watch people have confrontations with officers for no good reason besides ego.
You want my license? Here’s my license.
You want my insurance? Here’s my insurance.
You want me to step back to your car? Alright, you’re checking out to see if I’ve been drinking or driving. Got it. I’ll do that.
Why? Do I have legal arguments to make that I don’t have to get out of the car and I don’t have to answer questions and I don’t have to help the officer in their investigation? Yes. But if I escalate the situation, you know what I do? I take a huge risk of putting myself in serious danger. I run the risk of making things much worse.
That officer could write me a ticket for speeding, or he can write me a ticket for no seatbelt, speeding, lights not being on, insurance not valid because I couldn’t get it on my phone fast enough. I am making things worse by my actions.
What you should never do
But what I won’t do, and what I would never do, is consent to a search. Why? I don’t know what’s in my car, I don’t know what my buddy left in my car, I don’t know what my kids left under the seat. I would never consent to a search.
Be nice. Be kind. But stop at the appropriate time.
They’re going to give you a ticket for speeding. But you sitting there saying I don’t have to do this? They’re going to give you a ticket for speeding and they might bust out your window getting you out of the car. But, they cannot get in that car without your permission.
Don’t let the cop search. They will spend three hours tearing your car apart to try and find something, and God knows what somebody else left in there.
Your worst case scenario is they go get a drug dog, and they have to do that within a time limit. Make them do their job.
They have trained the dogs to search for drugs. The officer is going to testify that the dog finds drugs every time. Judges, however, are not trained to believe everything the cop says. With the appropriate representation, we can create reasonable doubt.
What happens if you refuse to cooperate?
When I represent people that have been problematic for officers, those officers write on the ticket exactly what that person did to annoy the cop. The problem is that it changes my ability to then go talk to a prosecutor and resolve a case in a way that is actually favorable. It puts us in a situation that is all or nothing.
You get a speeding ticket? We can go to trial if you want, but we could also get it amended, and then it is your choice as to what we do. You want to go to trial, go to trial. It is my job to present you with things that you could do.
When somebody is antagonistic to a cop and decides they’re not going to play ball. This cop is being mean to me, I’m going to be mean back. That cop then transmits to the prosecutor that this guy was a jerk. Which then limits my ability to help you. I have represented people that have said to the officer, I’m not going to talk to you.
It doesn’t work out well.
So what do I have to do during a traffic stop?
I’m of the opinion that you should be polite and kind to everybody. It’s just a good way to live life. Makes things a little bit easier. Being polite to the officer when they ask you your name, ask for your date of birth, ask you where you live, those are all common things.
Many times they’ll ask you where you’re going. You don’t have to be specific. You don’t have to say well I’m leaving this drug house and I’m driving over here to this other drug house. You don’t have to tell him where you’re going and why. That’s not part of the investigation for speeding.
If they decide to arrest you then they have the right to inventory search your car. So in theory if you have a warrant out for your arrest, they can arrest you and then search your car. Don’t put up a fight if they decide they have a warrant.
So my advice to you is be polite, be kind. But you don’t have to be specific, and if they ask, can I look around your car? Say no. They’re going to look at you funny, they may frown a little bit, but they don’t have a right to get in there unless you give them permission to.
And, if you have more questions, or need help, give us a call.