How to Be Smart If You Are Stopped By Police

Your heart rate starts to spike as soon as your eyes spot the revolving red and blue lights in the rearview mirror.

When a police officer stops you in a car or on foot, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, being prepared for an interaction with law enforcement ahead of time can help ensure you don’t leave the interaction in handcuffs or worse.

What Should I Do If A Police Officer Stops Me?

If a police officer pulls you over while driving, the smartest thing to do is stay in the car and keep your hands where the officer can see them. If the officer perceives that you’re making a quick move, they might pull their weapon on you.

Next, as the officer approaches your vehicle, they will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. By law, you must produce these items when pulled over. Again, keeping these items in your glove compartment or wallet will help your interaction with the officer.

For example, if you were pulled over for a suspected DUI, the officer may ask, “Have you been drinking tonight?”Then, the officer will likely start asking you questions. Your best move is to respond, “I want to remain silent, and I want to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.” If you were drinking, it’s illegal to lie to the police, and if you respond ‘yes,’ you’ve just provided incriminating evidence against yourself.

The constitution provides you the right to remain silent and to employ an attorney. When you invoke that right, the officer must stop asking you questions. Invoking this right can not be used against you in court.

If you believe your rights were violated after the interaction, write down everything you remember. Ideally, you’ll remember the officers’ badges and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from – such as state or local police -, and any other details.

If the police injured you, seek medical attention immediately and take photographs of your injuries.

Did The Police Have A Legal Right To Pull Me Over?

The most common reasons for someone to be pulled over are impaired driving or an issue with the vehicle. The police can pull you over if they witness you speeding, not using a turn signal, or not adhering to stop signs and red lights.

When the car is the issue, they can pull you over for broken headlights, cracked windshields, or expired registration.

An officer also can pull a vehicle over because they believe the driver is committing or recently has committed a crime. This often becomes a high point of contention and litigation in court.

What Should I Do After The Police Stop Me?

After you’ve been pulled over, tell the police officer you’d like to speak to your attorney as soon as possible. Then, when the officer allows it, call the VanWa Legal offices right away.

We offer free consultations and flexible flat-fee payment plans to help you afford the best legal representation.

What Is Legally Allowed by the Police In a Traffic Stop In Washington State?

While driving down the road, few things cause more anxiety than seeing flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror.

Maybe you knew you were speeding to get home, or you’re unsure what you did to warrant the police pulling you over.

Regardless, given recent social movements highlighting injustices committed by the police, you may be wondering what police can legally do at a traffic stop and what you should do to help the encounter go smoothly.

What Should I Do If I Am Pulled Over In A Traffic Stop By The Police In Washington State?

If the police pull you over in a traffic stop in Washington State, pull to the right side of the road as quickly but safely as possible. Turn off your engine and wait for the police to approach your car. Refusing to pull over will incur heavy fines and punishment.

Don’t do anything you weren’t asked to do. This even includes giving license and registration until you are asked. If the officer requests you exit your vehicle, do so slowly.

The Washington State Attorney General’s office recommends, “Above all, be cooperative, patient, and polite, following all orders. If you feel that the police mistreated you in any way, call the agency for which the police officer works.

What Can A Police Officer Legally Do At A Traffic Stop In Washington State?

Police officers who make a traffic stop — regardless if you feel the stop was warranted or not at the moment — are legally allowed to do the following:

  • Question the driver
  • Question any passengers
  • Search your vehicle if you’re being arrested, consent to it, or a crime is being committed in plain view

Police officers may make what’s called a “Terry Stop” of vehicles. If the officer reasonably suspects that you committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime, they can pull you over. The police officer is not required to have probable cause to arrest the individual at that time — reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity is enough.

However, a police officer must always inform you why they pulled you over.

What Can I Say No To During A Traffic Stop In Washington State?

During a traffic stop, you can legally say no to a police officer in the following situations:

  • You lawfully own your vehicle; you may challenge the seizure of the car.
  • You were occupying a parked vehicle, and an officer requests you open the window; you are allowed to refuse social contact.
  • You may deny a sobriety test, but know you will likely face a license suspension and fines.

Police officers also can’t prolong your traffic stop beyond the time “reasonably necessary to complete the stop and write the ticket.”

What Should I Do If I Think The Police Broke The Law During A Traffic Stop In Washington State?

If you think a police officer did something not legally allowed during a traffic stop in Washington State, try to get the person’s full badge number while on the scene. Next, contact an attorney at VanWa’s offices.

We can offer you a free consultation, so you understand what your rights were and guide you on the proper next steps.