What do I do when I get pulled over?
Five steps to keep you out of hot(ter) water with police
That moment every driver dreads – the lights blaze and the siren blares. You know you were speeding or missed that signal. “Here it comes,” you think as you throw your blinker on, “Another ticket.”
No one wants to call a traffic ticket lawyer. Follow these five steps to help minimize the damage to your record the next time you find yourself in hot water.
1. When you see the flashing lights
As soon as you hear the siren, pull over to the right safely and quickly. You should also acknowledge the officer and let him know that you plan on pulling over by turning on your flashers. This is especially true if you think you’ll need time to find a safe place to pull over.
Be sure to use your turn signal, and don’t slow down so quickly that the officer is forced to avoid you. Your actions from here on out will either calm down or exacerbate a potentially annoyed officer. Pull over as far to the right as possible to keep the officer out of harm’s way.
2. As soon as you pull over
First, roll your window down all the way, turn off the engine, put your hands on your steering wheel and, at night, turn on your overhead light. Don’t forget, traffic stops are potentially dangerous for police. Anything you can do to assuage an officer’s fears could work in your favor.
Don’t start rifling through your glove compartment or reaching into your bag for your wallet. Not only is remaining still non-threatening, but suddenly lowering your shoulders and other quick gestures indicate that you may have something hide.
3. Don’t give the officer an excuse to search
You don’t have to consent to a search. In fact, an officer only has the right to search your vehicle with probable cause – maybe he or she sees an open container, can smell something in the car or even saw you trying to hide something. The officer can open the car door to seize anything illegal that’s “in plain view” and can then take anything else illegal they come across along the way.
If the officer does ask to search your vehicle without cause, politely exercise your Fourth Amendment right with something along the lines of, “I don’t consent to a search, officer.” You never know what might turn up, even if you weren’t doing anything illegal at the time.
4. Talking to the officer
A case can be decided on what you say (or don’t say) to an officer. Prepare yourself to be courteous, and let the cop begin the conversation. Don’t shoot back a defensive response, such as insisting to know what you did wrong. If he or she asks to see your license and registration, a simple, ‘sure’ will do. Not only will arguing not get you anywhere, it can also harm your case.
The officer might also ask ambiguous questions to try to get an admission of guilt. For example, if you hear something like, “Do you know why I stopped you?” Just saying ‘no’ will do the trick. Anything you say can be used against you, so be as brief as possible.
5. Sign the citation.
If the officer chooses to issue a citation, sign it. It’s not an admission of guilt, just a recognition that you’ve received the citation and promise to either pay it or appear in court on the assigned date. Once you show up in court, you’ll have your chance to contest the ticket. The time not to argue the citation? With a cop on the side of the road.
If you’re looking for a traffic ticket lawyer in Ohio, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA.
Contact Columbus Stephen Palmer, a criminal defense attorney with 19 years experience, today.