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What does an ex-cop say you should do when pulled over?

There is a lot of information floating around the internet and elsewhere about how you should act when you get pulled over. We all know that you should remain calm, but having a more detailed plan can mean the difference between leaving without incident and receiving a ticket or getting arrested.

So what do police officers pay attention to when engaged in a traffic stop, and how can you set yourself up for success? Officers are only human as well, and may respond differently in various situations. What is important is keeping the interaction simple and civil, giving the officer little or nothing to escalate. Dan Krieger, a former police officer and prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney, understands the balance between complying with an officer’s requests without violating your rights.

Go the extra mile to be compliant

When you see the blue lights flashing, pull over as soon as possible in a place that is safe for the officer to approach your vehicle. If you are pulling over on the side of a busy road, make sure that you pull off a good distance into the shoulder, so that officer can approach your vehicle without unnecessary danger from passing traffic. Proceed to turn off your engine and place your hands on the steering wheel.

Once the officer begins to approach your vehicle, there are several steps you can take to increase your compliance without giving away more information or access than necessary.

1. If you have working interior lights, turn them on, especially in a nighttime stop. This expresses to the officer that you have nothing (and no one) to obscure in the back seat and acknowledges the value of his or her safety.

2. Unless it is raining significantly, you also want to roll down all your windows — especially if you have tinted windows. Again, this gives the officer the notion that you value his or her safety, and grants unobstructed observation to the areas of your vehicle that he or she already has the legal right to inspect.

3. Of course, you want to make sure that your hands remain on the steering wheel at all times unless the officer gives you an instruction to move them. When an officer cannot see your hands, he or she may feel threatened.

Compliance does not mean violating your rights

The police officer may not search your vehicle without your permission or probable cause, and you should never give an officer either of these. If an officer asks you to open your trunk, or a glove compartment, or asks to search your vehicle, tell them calmly that you do not consent to the search.

Also, you should not volunteer any information about yourself or your actions. Remember, the officer is gathering information about you to possibly charge you with a crime.

Whenever possible, answer questions about your actions with either “yes” or “no.” You may also remain silent if you do not want to answer a question, or give a noncommittal answer like “OK.” Do not lie to an officer, but do not give away more information than you have to.

The officer should do the majority of the talking, and anything you say should be calm and as blank as possible, and certainly not sarcastic or aggressive.

If you receive a ticket or face arrest

Even if you follow all the best practices, you may still receive a ticket or face arrest. In these situations, do not hesitate to seek out high-quality legal counsel. While many attorneys have good track records, an experienced attorney who spent years in law enforcement can offer additional value and insight to your circumstances.

With proper legal guidance, you can ensure that your rights and future remain protected.

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