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5 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Pulled Over by Police

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Pulled Over by Police

How to Act When a Police Officer Pulls You Over

If you’ve felt your stomach drop when a police officer pulls you over, you’re certainly not alone. Most Americans are familiar with the anxiety of seeing flashing red-and-blue lights in the rearview mirror.

Even when you haven’t done anything wrong, getting pulled over can be an intimidating and frightening experience. Regardless of why a law enforcement official pulls you over, it’s imperative to behave appropriately to avoid unwarranted suspicion and prevent the situation from escalating unnecessarily.

It can be helpful to remember that the police officer is probably just as nervous as you, if not more so, when approaching your stopped vehicle. Keep reading to learn what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re pulled over on South Carolina roads.

5 Things to Avoid When Pulled Over by Law Enforcement

The way you behave during a routine traffic stop can impact the police officer’s actions. In some cases, your behavior can be the deciding factor in whether or not the law enforcement official lets you go. Consider these 5 things you should not do when pulled over by a police officer:

#1. Don’t exit the vehicle.

When pulled over, it’s crucial to stay in the vehicle unless the law enforcement official asks you to step out. Exiting the vehicle without warning can cause the police officer to perceive you as a threat or suspect a weapon on your person, leading to a greater risk of escalating conflict and/or miscommunication.

#2. Don’t speak first.

It’s important to remain quiet until the police officer speaks to you. Not allowing the official to speak first can make you appear guilty, combative, or agitated—impressions that are best to avoid in the presence of law enforcement to prevent the situation from escalating.

#3. Don’t consent to a search.

The police officer cannot search your car without probable cause. If they ask for permission to search the vehicle, you have the right to say no. While this might not stop the official from obtaining a warrant to conduct a future search, a timely objection can help protect your rights in court if things end up escalating.

#4. Don’t reach for anything.

Keep your hands visible and still. Don’t reach for anything, including your insurance or driver’s license, until the officer tells you to. Going for the center console, purse, or other storage compartment can cause the law enforcement official to suspect you of being armed and put them on the defensive.

#5. Don’t be argumentative.

While you don’t have to be a doormat when pulled over, it’s imperative to stay calm, respectful, and cooperative when possible. Making hostile comments or losing your temper during a traffic stop can worsen the severity of penalties and prevent you from negotiating a lesser sentence in court.

Many Americans assume that if they refuse to consent to a search, the officer will search their car anyway and/or assume that the driver is guilty. Fortunately, this is not the case. Refusing to consent to a vehicle search is your right and isn’t an admission of guilt.

Keep in mind that a police officer is legally permitted to pat down your person if they suspect that you’re armed with a firearm or weapon, but they cannot search the car without your permission or probable cause.

If you’re unsure whether or not an officer is requesting or commanding to search your vehicle, just ask them. It’s best to be straightforward and ask clarifying questions to exercise your rights appropriately instead of kicking yourself later on for consenting to a warrantless search.

5 Best Practices to Follow When You’re Pulled Over Police

As a general rule, it’s wise to follow these 5 best practices when pulled over by a law enforcement official:

Roll down all tinted windows and turn on interior lights.

It's important to move slowly and communicate clearly when stopped by law enforcement. Part of this communication can be inferred from your body language. Rolling down tinted windows and turning on interior lights at nighttime can help show the officer that you're willing to cooperate and aren't reaching for a weapon.

Keep your hands on the wheel.

Keeping both hands on the wheel in the officer’s field of vision can help assure the law enforcement official that you aren’t hiding something, reaching for a weapon, or intending to commit suspicious or illicit activity.

Ask for permission before reaching for anything.

Don’t dig through your console or other storage compartments until the police officer directs you to do so, as hunting down your insurance in an unseen compartment may be misconstrued as reaching for a firearm or an intention to flee the scene.

Pull the vehicle over as quickly and safely as possible.

While it's imperative to pull over as quickly as possible when you're being pulled over, safety is the top priority. Use your best judgment to pull over in a well-lit area that is out of the way of oncoming traffic, as this will ensure that you and the police officer stay safe on the roads—especially if it’s dark out.

Stay calm.

Being pulled over by a police officer is a nerve-racking experience for most people. It can be hard not to worry about interacting with law enforcement when they suspect you of a crime, whether it’s a simple speeding citation, driving under the influence, or a more serious offense.

Regardless of alleged guilt or probable cause, the best thing you can do when pulled over by a police officer is to remain calm. This can help prevent things from escalating or rousing more suspicion if the officer picks up on anxious energy or suspects that you might try to evade law enforcement.

Passionately Defending the Accused in Lexington, SC

If you've been charged with a criminal offense in South Carolina, you deserve an experienced defense in court. That's why our skilled criminal defense attorneys are here to defend your rights and restore your freedom.

Our dependable team at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has extensive experience representing clients throughout South Carolina in a wide range of criminal cases, from traffic violations to sex crimes to domestic violence. We have a proven track record of providing high-quality legal representation for the accused in Lexington and the surrounding areas.

If you're facing criminal charges, you deserve a fierce legal defense to obtain a favorable outcome in court. Our dedicated criminal defense lawyers can help determine the most effective legal strategy to pursue during criminal proceedings and advocate on your behalf from start to finish. Don’t risk throwing away your future by forgoing the reliable legal representation you deserve.

If you’re facing criminal charges in South Carolina, make sure you have the right legal team in your corner. Call (888) 301-6004 to request a free consultation with our skilled Lexington criminal defense attorney.

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