How to Handle Yourself When You're Pulled Over by the Police
Oct. 19, 2022
Don’t run or resist.
If an officer pulls you over, you should stop your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. Don’t run away, flee, or try to resist arrest. Remember that being aggressive or combative will only make the situation worse. Instead, remain calm and respectful. Politely decline to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable. If you are asked about your immigration status, you do not have to answer. Merely say, “I don’t wish to answer that question," or "I do not want to discuss my personal affairs."
Be polite and respectful.
If you are polite and respectful, you are much less likely to get a ticket. You are also much less likely to be arrested. Do not use profanity, attempt to argue with the officer, be sarcastic, make jokes or be otherwise offensive or combative. Police officers are people too, and they are much more likely to treat you with respect if you treat them with respect.
Prepare to show your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
The officer may ask for your license, registration and proof of insurance. While you are not required to answer any questions, you are required to provide these documents if you are pulled over as the driver of a vehicle. It is a good idea to wait to provide these until you are asked to do so. If an officer asks for them, explain to him or her where the documents are located and indicate that you are going to retrieve them. Avoid making sudden moves that could be interpreted as potentially threatening to the officer's safety.
Know your rights.
Being stopped by the police doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. You have certain rights when you are pulled over. Knowing what they are can help keep the situation from getting out of hand. You have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to answer any questions the officer asks. If you are a passenger, you also don’t have to give the officer your name, Social Security number or any other identifying information. You have the right to refuse a search of your car or your person. The officer can’t force you to consent to a search. You have the right to film the police encounter. This is especially important, given recent controversies about officers falsely detaining and arresting citizens who are lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.
Don't consent to any searches.
If an officer tries to search your car or your person, politely decline. If they threaten to arrest you or otherwise get aggressive, you can ask if you are under arrest or being detained. If not, you can walk away. If they attempt to search your car, you can decline to give them consent. If an officer searches your car anyway, make it clear that you are not consenting to a search, but do not try to physically prevent him or her from doing so.
Being stopped by the police doesn’t have to be a scary experience. Most times, it’s just a brief encounter that ends with you going on your way. Being prepared and knowing your rights can help you make the most of a potentially stressful situation.