Police Stops: What To Do

It can be very disconcerting when a police officer turns on his lights behind you or pulls alongside your vehicle and motions you to pull over. How you handle being stopped by the police in Riverside, San Bernadino and Orange County can sometimes determine whether you will be charged with a simple traffic offense or with something more serious such as a DUI.

Police officers don’t know who the people they are stopping are. They are on heightened alert because they may be in danger. Police officers know that others have been killed while conducting normal traffic stops. It is important that the demeanor you exhibit is polite, cooperative and friendly. This can help the officer to feel less worried that you might pose a danger to him or her. If you are stopped and then arrested because the officer suspected you of driving under the influence, your next step will be to speak to an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney.


It is important not to panic when you first see the police car behind you. If the officer turns on the lights, turn on your right turn signal and safely move all the way to the right. Make sure you are completely off of the road on the shoulder to avoid impeding traffic. Don’t stop so quickly that the police officer has to brake hard to avoid rear-ending you. When you stop, turn off your vehicle’s engine and roll your window down.


Showing the officer some basic courtesies may help you with the encounter. In addition to turning off your engine and rolling down your window all of the ways, there are some other things you might think about doing. If it is dark outside, turn on your interior light. If you are smoking, put out your cigarette. Place both of your hands on the top of your steering wheel so the officer can see them, and don’t reach for anything, including your license, registration and insurance.

When the officer asks for your documentation, get it for him or her at that time. Do not get out of your vehicle unless you are directed to do so by the officer. These small steps can help the police officer to feel more comfortable and less in danger.


After you have provided the officer with your license, registration and insurance information, you do not have to talk. In fact, it is normally in your best interests to remain silent. When you do talk, an officer may later use your words against you in his or her police report, and the prosecutor may also use them in an effort to convict you of any charges you receive.


If the officer asks you to submit to roadside tests, politely refuse. Roadside sobriety tests are not mandatory, and it’s better if you do not agree to do them. You will have to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station if you are arrested. At the roadside, however, the officer who suspects you of driving under the influence will be trying to secure enough information to arrive at probable cause to arrest you. If you complete the roadsides, he or she can use the observations gleaned from those to secure probable cause.


In a traffic stop, police are normally not allowed to search your vehicle unless they believe there might be evidence contained in it for the offense of which you are suspected. If an officer sees items in plain view, such as empty liquor bottles or marijuana roaches, they can search your car without your consent. If that does not apply and the officer asks your permission to search your vehicle, politely refuse. If you are taken into custody, officers will generally be allowed to search your vehicle later incident to your arrest.


When you are charged with driving under the influence, you will face harsh penalties if you are convicted of the offense. Even a first offense can bring up to six months in jail. Repeat offenses carry even harsher penalties. If you handle your stop well, you can help your lawyer later by not adding to the evidence that will be used against you. If you are currently facing charges of driving under the influence, contact Riverside, San Bernadino and Orange County’s leading DUI defense law firm of Scott D. Henry today to speak with a lawyer about your case.

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