Holidays are around the corner and I’ve heard many times how the Police and Traffic Officials are going to “clamp down on the traffic offenders”. Personally I have only been pulled over by Traffic Officers once in my life, and I was a bit intimidated by the ordeal. Here are a few tips and suggestions on what to do and what not to do when you get pulled over.
What to do when you are stopped
- Stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
- Do not run or walk away. Keep your hands where police can see them — don’t put them in your pockets. (Don’t make the police nervous by wondering if you have a weapon.) Don’t make any sudden movements. Never touch a police officer.
- Be polite and respectful.
- Give your name and address only if you’re asked to, but remember you don’t need to say anything more. (The caveat is that if the police are annoyed by your refusal to say more, they may take you to the station out of spite.) Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you later.
- To search you or your vehicle the police must have a warrant, or have arrested you, or have probable cause that you committed a crime. If the police lack these they may ask you for permission to search. If you GIVE them permission, then you can’t argue later in court that they performed an illegal search.
- Try to remember the officers’ physical descriptions. Try to memorize badge numbers, names, license plate numbers, and police car numbers. Once the police stop questioning you, write all this down as soon as you are able.
- Ask bystanders to stand at a discreet distance and observe. The police are less likely to do something wrong if there are people watching. People have a right to stand at a reasonable distance and observe as long as they do not interfere. (The police may consider that bystanders repeatedly asking them questions constitutes “interference”.) Get the names and phone numbers of the witnesses afterward in case you need them in the future.
- If you are being abused, don’t resist. Once multiple officers start hurting you, you can’t stop them by resisting, and struggling may only encourage them. Think of a cat playing with a mouse — while the mouse is struggling, the cat is excited, but when the mouse stops moving, the cat loses interest. In some cases, the police may continue to abuse you even if you don’t struggle, but since struggling can’t help you, it’s best not to try.
- If the police let you go and you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
- If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint. Keep a copy of the complaint, and make sure a family member or close friend has a copy.