Being pulled over by police is nerve-wracking, even when everything goes well. But often, police will ask to search your car, demand that you take a breath test, or ask probing questions designed to make you say something you shouldn’t. You need to be polite, say as little as possible, and call a lawyer as soon as you can.
If you’ve been pulled over and arrested, the Simmrin Law Group can help you. We work exclusively for those who are accused of crimes and traffic violations—and we know how to win cases. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
Traffic Stop Do’s and Don’ts
If you see the squad car lights behind you, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so—usually right away on the right-hand shoulder. If there is no shoulder, look for somewhere you can pull off the road so that you are out of traffic. Always put on your turn signal to pull over right away, even if there’s nowhere to pull over immediately. This lets police know you are trying to follow their orders.
While pulling over:
DO put on your turn signal (or hazard lights, if you have to slow down and look for a place)
DO pull over slowly and carefully
DON’T stop the car in traffic
DON’T get out of the car unless officers request it
DO try to stop the car somewhere well-lit if possible (at night)
DO consider turning on the interior lights so that officers can see you are not a threat
DON’T try to “ditch” anything out the window
DO keep your hands on the wheel and wait for officer instructions to reach for anything
Once police approach the vehicle, be polite and respectful and comply with any instructions.
What should I say to the police during a traffic stop?
The single most important rule is to say as little as possible.
You can (and should) be cooperative and give basic information when requested, such as your name. However, you should not give the police any information. Don’t assume you know which information might or might not make you look bad—officers know how to mislead people into saying the wrong thing.
When the officer asks if you know why they pulled you over, say, “No sir.”
If the officer asks why you were speeding (or ignored a stop sign, etc.), don’t explain.
It’s okay to answer by saying, “Officer, I’ve been advised never to answer questions at a traffic stop.”
Obviously, you do not want to irritate or provoke the officer. But it’s okay to calmly, politely decline to answer. This is within your legal rights and it’s the single best thing you can do for yourself.
What if the officer wants to search my car?
If you haven’t been arrested yet, there are only two ways an officer can legally search your car in most cases:
The officer has a warrant, or
You give the officer permission.
But officers won’t ask you if you’ll give them permission. Instead, they’ll ask what’s in your trunk (or back seat) and then ask, “Do you mind if I take a look?” If you tell them that they may, you’ve now given them permission for a search. Never do this—even if you believe your car is 100% “clean.”
Instead, politely tell the officer, “Sir (or ma’am), I have a rule that I don’t consent to searches.”
Even without your permission, officers may look through the windows with their flashlights. If something suspicious is in plain view, they then have grounds to investigate further, and potentially to search the car.
Am I required to take a breath test?
Officers may suspect you of drinking and driving, or they may ask for a breath test simply to see what the result is. In most cases, you are allowed to say no as long as you haven’t been arrested yet.
There are only two main groups of people who must submit to the breath test even if they haven’t been arrested:
You are under 21 years old, or
You are currently on probation for a DUI charge
If neither of those apply to you, you can politely decline the breath test. You are also allowed to decline field sobriety tests. This doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested, but it does mean the officers (and prosecutor) have much less evidence to charge you with.
Once you have been arrested, however, you are legally required to take either a breath, blood or urine test and you will face extra criminal penalties if you don’t do it.
Is it possible to get out of a ticket?
Sometimes, yes. But it doesn’t work the way most people think it does.
Many people think that if they apologize for the law they broke, the officer might show mercy. The truth is, if you apologize for speeding (or another offense), all you’ve really done is admitted that you broke the law. A better approach is this:
Be polite and respectful the whole time
Follow the rules above
When the officer has your information, ask them before they go back to their vehicle if they could let you off with a warning
It’s as simple as that. Whether the officer gives you a warning is entirely up to their own discretion, and it’s okay to just ask them.
Is it possible to get out of being arrested?
If an officer believes you’ve committed a criminal offense, they’re going to charge you—there is no way out. However, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily arrest you and take you to jail. They have the option of giving you a “citation,” which has a court date printed on it.
If you have been polite and respectful the whole time, and they say they’re going to arrest or charge you, ask if they could give you a citation and let you go home tonight. It’s unlikely they will say yes, but in some cases it works.
Either way, the most important thing you can do is fight the charge. Even one conviction can have consequences that last for years. You need to talk to a lawyer.
Talk to a California Lawyer for Free
Whether you have been pulled over for a traffic violation, reckless driving, driving without a license or worse, it’s just the start of a much longer case. Don’t face yours without professional help. At the Simmrin Law Group, we may be able to help you avoid jail time, dismiss the charges, keep your drivers license or even win your case. Let us give you a FREE consultation and help you get started. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.