When You First See the Police Car
Promptly park to the side of the lane or street when it is safe to do so, this alerts the law enforcement officer behind you that you’re complying. Use your turning signal and try to get off as far away from the lane as you can. If you pull over promptly, you’ll be closer to the scene of the incident where the officer says you are guilty of a violation. Being closer will allow you to look at the scene and verify if the officer’s allegation is the truth as well as evaluate any defense such as obstructed views.
Right After You Are Stopped
Make sure to show politeness whenever you’re getting pulled over, regardless of the officer is behaving aggressively. Sacrifice your ego a little bit because you lose nothing for being polite but could make your day much more difficult if you’re rude. Begin by rolling down your window, turning off your car and placing your hands on the wheel. If you’re pulled over at night, you should have your interior lights on.
Never reach for anything including documentation immediately after being pulled over. Police officers are specially trained to notice a driver reaching for secret items or hiding illicit substances and reaching for documentation may result in the officer misinterpreting your intentions. You could be reaching for your license and registration but to an officer, you could be pulling out a gun.
If you’re not entirely sure that you’re being pulled over by a police officer, such as an unmarked car, ask for the officer’s photo identification and badge. If you remain unsure, you can request the officer to call a supervisor to the scene, or you may ask to follow them to a police station.
Don’t Give the Officer an Excuse to Search Your Car
While typically polices officers aren’t permitted to search your car during traffic stops, the amount of suspicion needed for a reason to search your car is meager. The officer will usually shine their spotlight on your car to help spot any suspicious actions. For example, if the officer sees you attempting to hide or toss something out of a window, they could legally search your car as a result. If you appear to hunch down forward in your seat, an officer can reasonably be suspicious that you’re trying to hide an item under your seat. Relax, do not commit any unhesitant or suspicious actions and don’t grab your registration until the officer requests that you do so.
If an officer has a valid reason to suspect you’re armed, dangerous, or involved in criminal activity, the officer may frisk you. If an officer has probable cause, a reasonable suspicion that you or any passengers are involving in criminal activity, then the officer may legally search your car. Even if an officer does not at first have probable cause if during the stop the officer notices something in plain sight, then the officer is permitted to inspect it, and any other items the officer comes across can be legally seized. Items in plain sight could be beer cans, bottles or drug paraphernalia.
Also note, an officer may search your car if you or any passenger are arrested. If the officer arrests you, your car could be towed, and law enforcement may do an inventory search of your car without the need for reasonable suspicion. To ensure that your rights are protected to the full extent, contact a Richmond traffic attorney as soon as possible.