What to Do if You Have Been Pulled Over by Law Enforcement

When you see a police car in the rear-view mirror, blue lights flashing and siren screaming, it’s normal to be nervous. The police are there to protect you, but that doesn’t mean you’re always glad to see them, especially when it’s late and you’re trying to get home.

You also know that you’re exposed to a certain amount of risk when the police pull you over. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, the officer may think otherwise, and that’s when trouble can occur. Every day, we hear stories of simple traffic stops escalating into arrests that violate one’s constitutional rights.

To help ensure the experience goes as smoothly as possible, pull over into a parking lot or to the side of the road as soon as you notice the officer’s signal. If you cannot pull over immediately due to traffic or lack of sufficient space to stop your vehicle, turn on your flashers to indicate that you plan on pulling over.

Remain in the Vehicle

Once you’ve stopped, stay in the vehicle and keep your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. If it’s dark, turn on your interior light. You may have done nothing wrong, but the police officer knows nothing about you, and it’s best to refrain from any actions that could inspire a potential police overreaction.

Respond Politely to Requests

Remain calm and speak clearly and politely. If the officer asks you if you know why they pulled you over, always say, “No, Officer, I don’t know.”

The officer will then ask for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you don’t have time to collect these documents before the officer approaches your car, let them know your intentions prior to taking your hands off the wheel. For example, you can say, “I’ll get my license and registration from the glove compartment right now.”

Indicate if You Have a Weapon in the Vehicle

If you have a handgun or any other weapon in the glove compartment with your insurance and registration, let the officer know before you open it, and await further instruction. Georgia Code 16-11-126 allows anyone not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm to have one inside their motor vehicle, but an unfortunate number of police officers have been injured or killed during roadside stops, and your right to carry a weapon may not be the first thing the officer thinks of if they see the gun without prior warning.

Do Not Answer Questions

Do not answer questions like “How much have you had to drink tonight?” and “Where are you coming from?” Don’t be rude about it, but make it clear that you are only going to furnish your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration.

Do Not Allow a Search of Your Vehicle

Under the Fourth Amendment, the police cannot search your car without a warrant or probable cause, such as an open bottle of liquor within reaching distance. If they say, “You don’t mind me taking a look in your car, do you?” state clearly but respectfully that you do not consent to a search.

Ask If You Can Leave

If you’ve supplied all the information that the officer needs for a routine traffic stop and they start asking you unrelated questions, politely ask, “Officer, am I free to go now?” Making this request forces them to either let you go or decide if there is probable cause to detain you further or arrest you.

If the officer issues you a traffic ticket, resist the urge to “get it over with” by pleading guilty and paying the fine. It may be the path of least resistance, but the consequences could be greater than you anticipated, such as temporary loss of driving privileges, higher insurance rates, and points against your record. Instead, reach out to an experienced attorney.

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we have helped many clients achieve a positive outcome in their traffic ticket case. If you received a citation, we will advise you on how to proceed appropriately and seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed to protect your driving privileges and avoid expensive points on your insurance or license. For more information, contact us.

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Pak & McRae Law

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we provide straightforward, sincere criminal defense for local, state, and federal matters. Our team includes a former Assistant District Attorney, so we understand how prosecutors approach cases and will use those insights to benefit your case.

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