Lately, the news has been full of stories about the police and the suspects they pull over. Some newsworthy, yet tragic incidents have occurred during what should be normal traffic encounters, and police officers and civilians alike have lost their lives, leaving communities and families understandably devastated. If these traffic incidents are making you nervous about pulling over when signaled to do so by the police, it's important to know exactly what to do in the event that you get pulled over, as well as what to do if you think you are being treated unfairly.
Understand the Reality of the Situation
It's important to note that the vast, vast majority of traffic stops take place with no out-of-the-ordinary interaction whatsoever. What normally happens is that the driver is pulled over; the officer checks the driver's license, registration and, if required in your state, insurance; the driver is issued a warning or a ticket; and everyone goes on his or her way.
The fact of the matter is that while some "bad cops" certainly do exist, most police offers are just normal, everyday people doing their jobs. USA Today reports that killings by police officers are at the same level today as they were ten years ago and that public safety overall has increased in recent years. If you get pulled over and you feel nervous, realize that the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that nothing worse than a ticket will come of the stop.
Stay Calm, Cool and Polite
So, what should you do if you are stopped for a traffic violation? Follow this list of tips:
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel as the officer approaches.
- Roll down your window. You may ask the officer why you are being pulled over, if he or she does not tell you right away.
- Comply with his or her request to furnish your driver's license and other paperwork.
- Answer truthfully if you are asked if you have a weapon in the vehicle. You may be asked to show your permit. Even if you don't have your permit with you, don't lie about whether you have a gun in your car.
- Even if you are frustrated, angry or running late, do not engage in a verbally threatening manner with the officer. Do what you can to not escalate the situation.
- Accept your ticket, even if you feel it was given to you unfairly. You can always contest it later.
Know Your Rights if You Are Treated Unfairly
Once the traffic stop is over, you will be free to go. This is the time to take action if you feel you were treated unfairly by the officer. You can call an attorney to discuss your rights. He or she might advise you to contact the officer's supervisor. You will also get advice as to whether you should pay the ticket or ask for the matter to be settled in court. The specifics will depend on your case, what the ticket is for, and what you feel the officer did wrong.
The main point to keep in mind is that police officers know that traffic stops can be stressful for those being pulled over. They also know that people under stress might potentially harm them, and they need to be defensive at all times. The best way to keep your traffic stop from escalating is to cooperate with the officer. There is always time later to pursue further action if you feel that the officer has not been professional, but during the traffic stop is not the right time for that. A traffic violation lawyer can help you understand your rights and seek justice if you have been wronged.
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