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What to do - and not to do - if you get pulled over

The majority of traffic stops start off as routine events. Sadly, they can become tragic in short order. Following several incidents where police officers killed motorists or vice versa, more legislators are working to train drivers how to respond to being pulled over. Here are some tips that might help you make it through a stop.

Pull over as soon as you notice the police behind you

Stopping promptly when you see the flashing lights is always a good idea, but be sure to do so safely. By using your turn signals to indicate your intentions and getting out of traffic, you can show that you're attempting to cooperate. This might be an effective way to keep officers from being annoyed with you from the start. It's also wise to pull over as far as possible so the police officer won't have to stand in traffic to talk to you.

Turn off the engine, turn on the lights inside your vehicle, and wait patiently. Open your window, and sit with your hands on the steering wheel.

Don't take your hands off the wheel

You may just be reaching for your license and registration, but an officer might think that you're going for a firearm and take lethal action in response. Always keep your hands in sight on the steering wheel. If you're asked for your documentation, tell the officer who stopped you where it is. Let them know that you're retrieving it before making a move.

Leave your ego behind

Police officers and other civil servants aren't always going to treat you respectfully or even politely. If you react angrily, there's no telling what might happen. While it's definitely a good idea to exercise your rights, you should understand that the manner in which you conduct yourself might rub someone the wrong way. Merely being polite can go a long way, and it might just save your life.

For instance, you have the right not to consent to a search of your vehicle, but you don't have the right to impede an officer from performing such a search when they believe they are legally justified in doing so. State your refusal, but never physically resist or fight back. If the police illegally search you, you may be able to get the evidence thrown out in court. If you try to stop them, however, there's no guarantee that you'll even make it that far. As a general rule, listen, respond to questions when you're asked to, and never be rude or argue.

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  • Super Lawyer Thomas Carroll Blauvelt Selected in 2015 Thomson Reuters
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