For most drivers, the sight of a police car’s flashing lights in the rearview mirror is an unsettling experience. While not uncommon, you may not know what to expect when this happens. Police offers are trained to perform specific duties during an investigatory stop if they wish to speak with a driver.
Understanding your rights when this happens is essential so you can stay within the law and avoid an altercation.
What you should do when pulled over by the police
If you are driving and a police car signals you to pull over, be sure to remember some important behaviors to stay safe:
- Drive your car to a safe parking spot and stop.
- If you are stopped at night, ensure the interior lights remain lit, and your windows are rolled down.
- Always keep your hands where the officers can see them.
- Present your driver’s license and car registration upon request.
- Avoid sudden movements, and always make the officer aware whenever you are reaching for something, like your wallet to pull out your license or car registration from the glove box.
Your rights during a police stop
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects people, their belongings, houses, and papers from unreasonable searches and seizures. Nonetheless, police officers are allowed under the law to stop any individual who they reasonably suspect is committing a crime or has committed a crime. During such stops, you have the following rights under the law:
- You have the right to remain silent following any questioning.
- You have the right to refuse consent for police to look around the vehicle.
- You have the right to know the reason for the stop and request to leave if you are not under arrest.
- You have the right to avoid giving explanations or excuses if you are arrested, and you have the right to request a lawyer.
Even if you feel that you are unfairly stopped or arrested, it is inadvisable to resist a police officer.
What to do if you feel that your rights are violated
During a police stop, if the investigating officers behave in ways that violate your rights, you can take the following actions:
- Write down everything you remember about the altercation.
- Make sure to note the officer’s badge number and patrol car number.
- Collect contact information from any witnesses.
- If the altercation caused physical injury, take pictures of the injury and seek medical attention.
- File a complaint with the police department so that they can commence an investigation.