HOW TO ACT DURING A TRAFFIC STOP
This has happened to all of us. You are driving along and suddenly you see flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Your heart rate jumps. You nervously check your speed and begin to wonder if it’s you he’s after and what you did wrong. You pull over and he pulls in behind you. What do you do?
THINK ABOUT THINGS FROM THE OFFICERS POINT OF VIEW
Your biggest concern is to make sure you get through this traffic stop safely. Routine traffic stops result in deaths to citizens and police officers every year in Texas. You need to put yourself in the officer’s shoes. He doesn’t know you and the dangers he might be facing are in the forefront of his mind. Keep your hands in full view as he approaches. Do not get out of your vehicle. Do not reach over to grab your driver’s license or registration - wait until you are asked for them. Lower your window put both hands on the steering wheel and wait until the officer arrives. If you have passengers in the vehicle, make sure they keep their hands visible and refrain from moving around or reaching for something as well. Remember the officer will be watching you closely. Many police reports describe how a driver fumbled for his identification as an indicator of intoxication.
DO NOT TRY TO HIDE OR GET RID OF ITEMS
Do not actively try to hide or destroy any items that you would like to conceal from the police. They are trained to look for you to do something like this. Every year, hundreds of folks who were facing a misdemeanor arrest for possession of marijuana commit a ‘Felony Tampering with Evidence’ offense by attempting to dispose of their weed.
LET THE OFFICER CONTROL THE SITUATION
The police officer’s first duty is to take and keep control of the traffic stop. If necessary they will use force to control the situation. They will meet any force or even the threat of force by the driver or passengers with swift reprisal. This doesn’t mean that you have to consent to anything the officer asks of you. You must let the officer know, however, through words and actions, that you are no threat to him or her.
LEAVE THE ARGUMENTS FOR YOUR ATTORNEY AND THE COURTROOM
The officer may not follow the law during a traffic stop. He may perform an illegal search of your car. There may not have been legal justification to stop you in the first place. You can let the officer know you are aware of your rights, but the side of the road is not the place for a legal debate. Even if you have right on your side you will almost always lose the argument and further escalate the situation against you. If you do end up with a traffic citation or a more serious offense, the place to fight the accusations is in the courtroom with your attorney.
KNOW YOU ARE BEING FILMED
Nearly all traffic stops are now recorded from the patrol car’s dashboard camera or a body camera on the officer. This provides protection for you as well as the officer. They are aware that these videos will be reviewed in court. Keep this in mind and act accordingly. There are no “magic words” of advice that can insure you will stay free of a legal jam, but paying heed to these recommendations can help keep you safe and provide a positive foundation for a competent defense attorney to get you the best results your situation affords.