Being pulled over by police is not an experience that most people relish. The usual reaction is to be nervous which, in turn, often drives many to behave foolishly. Such a response could very well have unfortunate consequences, escalating things into a downright fiasco or something even direr.
If you get pulled over, try to keep the following things in mind to avoid, at the very least, making a spectacle of yourself.
Know your legal rights. An officer can definitely pull you over for any traffic violation, even a minor one. Never behave as though he is doing something outside the realm of his capacity. If you feel, however, that you have been profiled for your age, race, sex, or the kind of car you drive, or that you are certain that you have been pulled over without sufficient cause, then record your interaction using your cellphone. Never behave with hostility or aggression, even if you feel that you’re being wronged, or you might end up being arrested.
Find a convenient spot to pull over. You want to be in a safe place when you pull over, in terms of traffic and otherwise. Slow down and signal to the officer that you have every intention of pulling over. If you’re in a dark, unfrequented length of road, you may want to wait until you get to a service station or a well-lit area before pulling over, but if you intend to do this, call 911 and have the dispatcher inform the officer that that’s what you’re doing.
Be transparent. Assuming that you have nothing to hide, demonstrate this by rolling down your window and turning on the light. Any movement should be slow, so as not to give the officer any false alarm about you drawing out a weapon. Do not reach for your license and registration until he has requested it.
Keep your answers brief and to the point. Nerves usually make people chatty, and this usually leads to trouble. Don’t give the officer ammunition against you. Stick to “yes” and “no,” and make your answers to open questions concise. Remember that they can use whatever you say to incriminate you.
Stay in your vehicle. You might come across as menacing if you get out of your car, so unless requested to do so, you should remain inside.
You can deny permission to search your car. There has to be probable cause to suspect a crime for an officer to do it. There are other possibilities as well for a search without a warrant, but you should know that an officer can’t conduct one on a whim.
The most important thing to remember is to remain polite. If you feel that the officer has violated your rights in some way, talk to a lawyer right away.