When stopped by a law enforcement officer, there are general guidelines you can follow that will help you in court should you receive a citation and prevent you from receiving additional, more serious charges. Following these general guidelines and knowing your rights can make a huge difference in a guilty or not-guilty outcome.
Acknowledge Their Presence
When you first see the police car with flashing lights alerting you to pull over, immediately let them know you acknowledge their presence by slowing down and using your turn signals to pull over. You should pull off the road to a safe spot on the shoulder or on to a side street as close to the location as possible where you first noticed the flashing lights. Don’t compromise anyone’s safety when pulling over.
Follow Proper Guidelines Sitting in Vehicle
Following proper guidelines sitting in your vehicle while pulled over is important to avoid misunderstandings. You and your passengers should remain in the vehicle with seatbelts fastened unless otherwise instructed by the officer. The officer is trained to anticipate a person exiting the vehicle without instruction is either going to fight or flee the scene. Roll your window down, turn the radio off, turn the engine off and refrain from talking/texting on mobile devices. If it is dark, turn your interior lights on so the officer can see inside the car. Keep your hands in sight on the steering wheel and let the officer know if you need to reach for documentation. If you have any passengers in your vehicle, request they remain quiet and keep their hands in plain sight. Don’t make any sudden movements.
Use Proper Etiquette With Officer
Using proper etiquette while speaking to the officer is important— a rude or condescending mannerism will likely make your situation much worse. Always be polite, do not argue, look the officer in the eyes while speaking and remain calm. This goes for you and any passengers in the vehicle. Most officers believe a traffic stop is a potentially life-threatening event therefore proper mannerisms could avoid a misunderstanding. Don’t give the officer a reason to confirm his/her allegations. Do be respectful.
Don’t Respond with Guilty Answers
When responding to the officer, use responses that do not admit guilt. It is better not to respond than to respond in a way that admits you are guilty. By law, you have the right to remain silent, which is not an admission of guilt. Anything you say can be used against you and is likely being recorded by the officer. When asked if you know why you were stopped, your response should be “no, I don’t know.” When asked if you know how fast you were driving, your response should simply be “yes” or “I was going with the flow of traffic.” Give noncommittal responses such as “I see” and “ok”. An admission of guilt lessons your chances of a successful outcome in court. Don’t incriminate yourself. Do know exercising your right to respond with “silence” cannot be held against you in court.
Know you Have the Right to Refuse Searches
The United States Constitution protects all individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. The officer must have a warrant, probable cause or your permission to search you or your vehicle. Probable cause includes seeing something illegal in plain view, seeing something thrown from the vehicle, smelling drugs or suspicious you are involved in criminal activity. Other probable cause situations could be due to observations of suspicious/sudden movements or slouching down in your seat, which may appear as though you are hiding something. Don’t physically resist a search. Do know your right to refuse a search.
Call Day or Night for an Experienced Traffic Law Attorney
If you have any questions about criminal procedures or need to retain a traffic attorney in Missouri, contact attorney Chris Benjamin at KC Road Lawyers by calling 816-425-2420 or navigating to our contact page for a consultation at the firm’s Lee’s Summit or Butler Missouri offices.