Behind the Wheel

What to do if you're pulled over

June 26, 2013
pulledover I give the same reaction every single time: I’ll be cruising along in my car when suddenly I’ll fly by a cop hidden alongside the road, and my stomach will sink. Assuming it’s my unlucky day, the cop will either whip out of his or her hiding place, red and blue lights ablaze, or trundle along slowly and strike fear in my heart before finally giving a “whoop, whoop” of the siren. Regardless of the policing strategy, police officers terrify me (in a good way). I truly respect their authority, but they have that authority for a reason, and when I’m the one who’s to blame for breaking the law… well, it’s just very intimidating. Anyways, moving on. Between the first flash of lights and the cop standing outside my window, I always blank on what exactly I need to hand over, whether I should remain still or reach for my wallet immediately, etc. My mind, of course, jumps to terrible scenarios where I’m handcuffed on the hood of my trunk and somehow everyone I’ve ever known is driving by and honking their horn. Because of my wild imagination, I’ve come up with a list of what exactly needs to happen when you’re pulled over. 1. First up, you need to get to the side of the road (regardless of whether you’re being pulled over or simply letting an emergency vehicle pass). If you’re being pulled over, yes, you’re already busted, but there’s no need to twist the knife — safely use your blinker to get to the side of the road, the sooner, the better. 2. Once you’re safely on the side of the road, remain calm. Simply roll down your window and turn off your car (if you want). Do NOT start reaching for your glove compartment or digging around in your purse until your asked for identification by the officer — too much movement gives the officer reason for suspicion. Be cool, soda pop. 3.Cops won’t (can’t) search your car without reason, so don’t give them a reason — don’t go chucking beer bottles out your window or shoving them under your seat. Also, if the officer believes you might be armed, they’ll pat you down. Simply put: Don’t give the police a reason to search your car. Just be good. 4. If the officer asks you to get out of your car, get out; if they don’t say anything, don’t worry about it. 5. Let the cop do the talking. Don’t lash out with a sneering, “What seems to be the problem?” comment or anything like that. They’ll say what needs to be said when it needs to be said. 6. You will be asked for your license and registration — pretty basic stuff. Make sure you always know where exactly your registration is in your car. 7. If the police person asks “if you know how fast you were going,” keep your answer brief: yes or no. If the officer then tells you how fast they clocked you at, do not argue. In fact, you don’t have to say anything at all. Saying nothing doesn’t make you guilty, and by keeping quiet, they can’t use anything against you in court! And there you have it — the basics of being pulled over by an officer of law.

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