There has been a tremendous amount of exposure recently to reprehensible behavior on the part of certain policemen. We wholeheartedly denounce this behavior is unacceptable and demand that justice be done. We also believe that these instances are abberations to the professionalism displayed by virtually all law enforcement officials. We long for the day when the ones who committed these terrible acts can be punished and that a new era may dawn where relations between citizens and those charged with protecting them are brought to newer, loftier standards.

Amid the clamor for justice, we want to emphasize that law enforcement professionals play an important role in society and that their job is very difficult. They must make decisions based on observation that might be tainted by awful experiences that they have to face on a regular basis. Therefore, we have written this guide of best practices for citizens so that they might be able to give police officers clear, definitive signals that result in a trouble-free encounter. This, while upholding the rights that citizens have during such encounters.

It’s Not All For Nothing

Some people would argue that there are abusive police that will mistreat or even injure a citizen no matter what they do. Yes, it is possible to run into an abusive police officer, but this is by far the exception to the rule. You are more likely going to be pulled over by an officer who is making their quota and really doesn’t want any trouble. Your first best defense during a routine traffic stop is crystal clear, LIMITED communication with the officer. By clear, we mean that you are helping the officer observe what you want them to see so they don’t have to guess.

Lights, Camera, Action

Most of us become aware that we are being pulled over because we see police lights start to flash in our rear view mirror. Pull over at the nearest safe area you see. Don’t overthink this. Try to find a location as soon as possible. If the officer wants you to go someplace else, they’ll tell you. Understand that you are nervous so try and make all of your motions smooth and as relaxed as possible. You may mentally tell yourself to do everything 20% slower. Once you have stopped the vehicle, turn the vehicle off and put both hand on the steering wheel. Passengers should also make things easier by keeping their hands visible and avoiding any hurried, busy movements.

We have seen drivers advised to apply their emergency brake. This is probably overkill and the extra fiddling around the interior of the vehicle probably is more concerning to the officer than just turning the vehicle off.

Clear, Limited Communication

First thing you need to do is turn off any sound system that’s is going. If this is at night, turn on your dome light as long as the switch is somewhere that you don’t have to reach for. If your smoking, put it out.

Understand that the officer is trained to probe for information in order to reveal more troublesome, hidden activity. Thus, it is possible to talk yourself into trouble rather quickly. So, try these simple answers to common questions asked during traffic stops.

Q: Do you know why I pulled you over?
A: No sir/ma’am, I don’t.

Q: Do you know how fast you were going?
A: No sir/ma’am, I don’t.

Q: Did you know your tail light is out?
A: No sir/ma’am, I didn’t.

Get the idea? Do not admit anything that can be construed as an admission of guilt. Simply answering “No sir.” is sufficient. This is not to say that you should respond curtly or in a surly manner but just answer calmly and succinctly. This is a good rule of thumb for all communications with police officers. Just answer questions. Don’t offer any other conversation. It is easy to provoke unnecessary questioning unless you know exactly what you are doing and have been trained to observe routine police tactics.

Stay in the vehicle unless told otherwise by the police officer. You want the officer to feel they are in control of who is directing thing. Don’t start reaching for your license and registration unless you are asked to.

It is true that you have the right to refuse to answer questions and certain other requests like searching your vehicle. But be sure you know what you’re doing and no how to refuse without aggravating the officer. In general, comply to commands unless you feel they become unreasonable. Even then, an unethical officer may insist and refusing might make things escalate. Better to be exonerated later than sit in a cell for 48 hours while they decide whether or not they can charge you.

Because none of use know when we might be ordered to pull our car over, one way you can help protect yourself is by recording the event via video. If your state allows the use of dash cams, a properly installed dash cam could make a big difference if you need to appear in court and want to dispute any behavior you observed during the stop. Currently, both Canada and the US allow dash cams although there may be restrictions in some states.

However, despite our best efforts, some traffic stops do end up going bad and it is possible to be abused or arrested or both on bad charges. If this has happened to you, you need to call a lawyer that can represent you best. If you feel you were the victim of sexual misconduct, contact your state’s Attorney General as well. While this may not help you during the traffic stop, it can help you get your life back on track should things go wrong.

In the eyes of the law, people have a legal right to defend themselves if they feel their lives are in danger.

In the legal world, self-defense has been designed to protect people who are attacked by someone else, unprovoked. The victim in this scenario is even allowed to use deadly force in order to protect themselves if the threat they are facing is deadly.

However, the use of force for self-defense can transform into assault if deadly force is used after the aggressor has verbally communicated that they’ve given up or the threat the victim is facing is not deadly [1]. Any aggression that the victim displays at this point can be seen or charged as assault. [2]

What Are The Exceptions To Using Deadly Force In Self-Defense?

Understanding what deadly force is can help frame how self-defense can quickly turn into an assault charge. The definition of deadly force varies from state to state, but in many states, deadly force means if the force used is likely to cause death or serious injury [3].

The law permits the use of deadly force in self-defense when there is a deadly threat. So people are only allowed to use deadly force in self-defense when there is a threat of harm so great that it could cause them death or serious injury. To qualify as self-defense, a reasonable person would deem deadly force necessary in the situation. If a lesser amount of force would protect the victim, then deadly force is not warranted [4]. If a victim uses deadly force when it is not necessary, it can be charged as assault.

In some states, if there is a window to retreat the scene and flee the threat, victims may not use deadly force. In legal terms, this is known as a duty to retreat [5]. If the victim retaliates against their attacker using force when there is an opportunity to get away, this can be seen as assault.

If I Hit Someone First In Washington State, Can I Claim Self Defense?

If someone feels they are about to experience great harm or threat, they do not have to wait to use force to protect themselves [6]. For example, if someone has a baseball bat and says they’re going to hit you, you’d be allowed to hit them first, before they strike, to protect yourself. This would qualify as self-defense.

However, let’s say you encounter someone you’ve had a physical fight with in the past. You’re worried this person will strike you again, but they have not made any verbal threats. You can’t hit them first to protect yourself because there is no real threat of imminent danger.

What Should I Do If I Acted In Self Defense But Have Been Charged With Assault In Washington State?

If you were in an altercation and you believe you were acting in self-defense, but have been charged with assault, contact a criminal defense lawyer at Priest Criminal Defense immediately. Our team of experts have experience defending those that acted in self-defense and can help you present your best defense.

[1] Schwartzbach, Micah. “Limits On Self Defense.”

[2] “Self Defense Law: Overview.” Find Law.

[3] Schwartzbach, Micah. “Criminal Law Defenses: Self Defense.”

[4] Schwartzbach, Micah. “Criminal Law Defenses: Self Defense.”

[5] Schwartzbach, Micah. “Criminal Law Defenses: Self Defense.”

[6] Bergman, Paul. “Can I claim self defense if I hit someone first?” Nolo.

If you’re being abused, harassed, stalked or going through a divorce, you may be considering filing a restraining order.

If you feel that you’re in danger, a restraining order, which can also be known as a protection order, can be issued quickly in Washington State with the help of an attorney.

What Does A Restraining Order Encompass In Washington State?

Restraining orders are filed in domestic abuse cases or family law cases, such as divorce cases or paternity cases [1]. Restraining orders are broader than a Domestic Violence Order Of Protection and in addition to domestic violence, restraining orders can deal with property issues, child custody, and spousal support. For example, if during a divorce one spouse is concerned the other may dispose of assets, a restraining order can help prevent this.

Are There Different Types Of Restraining Orders In Washington State?

Depending on your situation, there are specific types of protection or restraining orders you may seek.

  • Domestic Violence Order For Protection: This order commands the respondent to not threaten or harm you and forbids them from entering your residence. It can also give one parent temporary custody of a child or use of a vehicle, among other things [2]
  • Restraining Order: A Restraining Order is broader than the Domestic Violence Order and can encompass property issues and spousal support, as well as domestic violence.
  • No-Contact Order: A No-Contact Order is a criminal action and doesn’t require an application to be filled out. This order is usually temporary during a criminal trial to prevent the defendant from contacting you [3].
  • Civil Antiharrassment Order: This order is used mostly when the two parties are not married nor related to each other. This order can be used in disputes or stalking cases and is best for victims who have not been assaulted nor threatened with physical harm [4].

How Do You Get A Restraining Order In Washington State?

Your best first step in obtaining a restraining order is enlisting outside help through a trusted family law practice like Priest Family Law. Then, one of our lawyers can help you get a temporary restraining order. This can be done quickly with an application, which can be found online. Your attorney can help you fill out and file it at the courthouse. Next, the county clerk will decide if a temporary restraining order will be issued. This would happen that same day and without a court hearing. The defendant does not need to be present for a temporary restraining order to be issued [5].

Next, the defendant will be given notice and a court hearing will be scheduled, usually, for a few days later. During this hearing, your lawyer will present evidence supporting your request for a permanent restraining order like abuse or harassment. Then, the judge will decide to make the restraining order permanent or not.

What Should I Do Next If I Want To File A Restraining Order In Washington State?

If you live in Washington State and need a restraining order, reach out to the attorneys at Priest Family Law. Our team can advise you on the best order of protection for your situation. We have experience filing restraining orders quickly and winning long-term protection for our clients.


[1] “Types Of Protection Orders Available.” Washington Courts.

[2] “Types Of Protection Orders Available.” Washington Courts.

[3] “Types Of Protection Orders Available.” Washington Courts.

[4] “Types Of Protection Orders Available.” Washington Courts.

[5] Portman, Janet. “How To Get A Restraining Order.”