Anytime you drive, you risk a police interaction, and if you are unfortunate enough to encounter the police, you should have a plan. Encountering police is almost always a very stressful event. Even attorneys can find police interactions stressful, and we are generally better informed of the laws and our rights than most people (including cops!). I frequently consider what I will do if I am pulled over by police so that I can get through the interaction as quickly and smoothly as possible, and without bodily harm. I do not want to be thinking about what to do for the first time as I am face to face with irate and armed police. Here are some things to think about in advance of your next interaction with police:
What do I say when police ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
This can be a difficult question. Police obviously know why you were pulled over, and this question is just playing games or an invitation to admit a violation. What will you say to avoid making police angry, and to also avoid potentially incriminating yourself? The answer to this question often depends on what, if anything, you have just done. If you are certain you were stopped only for speeding, you might answer “I was going too fast.” In most circumstances though, the safest response could be something along the lines of “I cannot think of a reason, could you explain?” If you have any concerns, fears, or doubts about what may be next, even that response is not ideal — review our very detailed explanation about how to conduct yourself (and why) in any encounter that amounts to an interrogation.
What do I say when police ask to search my vehicle?
You always say “I do not consent to a search of any kind.” If police decide to search your vehicle anyway, do not block or interfere in any way, as that could endanger your life, and this is not a dispute you can win on the roadside. Merely repeat, “I do not consent to a search of any kind.”
What do I say when police ask if I’ve been drinking or doing drugs?
Admit to nothing! Admitting to drinking or doing drugs will NEVER improve your situation. If police think you are impaired, they will pursue the issue regardless of your answers, and any incriminating answers will only make defending against any charges in court more difficult.
What do I do when police ask me to perform a field sobriety test?
Simply, politely, and firmly say “No thank you.” You are not required to perform a field sobriety test, field sobriety tests are often failed by perfectly sober drivers, and police will use the tests to justify an arrest. Then police use your failure to complete these tests with perfection as justification for a subsequent chemical test to establish your blood alcohol or presence of drug metabolites.
What am I required to do when interacting with police?
If you are driving, you are required to provide your license, registration and proof of insurance. If police order you and/or your passengers out of your vehicle, you are required to exit your vehicle. If you have a weapon, and police ask if you have a weapon, you are required to answer truthfully (and may be required to surrender the weapon temporarily). You are not required to answer any other questions.
Why would I want to talk to a cop in the first place?
You wouldn’t. There are always exceptions, for example you have been or are about to be the victim of a crime, but otherwise speaking with police offers little upside to you. Cops are always looking for reasons to issue a ticket and take your money. Even if you have been the victim of a crime, it is not at all unusual that police will also charge you with a crime. For example, someone assaults you, you fight off the assailant, then call police. They show up and your assailant is in worse physical condition than you are. Police apply cop logic and decide that you must have started the fight, because your attacker appears more injured than you, and arrest you for assault. Similarly, following auto accidents, police show up after-the-fact, having observed nothing, and just start writing tickets. So many harmless activities have been criminalized that it is very easy to inadvertently admit to criminal conduct without even knowing it, especially in a stressful situation, so your best policy is to keep your mouth shut.
The best policy is avoidance.
We advocate doing everything reasonable to avoid police interactions. We also strongly advise never driving after you have had anything to drink or after doing any drugs. You may not be impaired after one beer, but that does not mean a police officer will not charge you with a DUI for driving while impaired to the slightest degree. Consider being stopped after having had a beer, and police asking if you have had anything to drink — it would be much better to truthfully say, “No, I’ve had nothing to drink today” rather than “I have nothing to say”. We are big fans of Uber. $30 for a ride is significantly less expensive than dealing with a DUI, and much, much safer than dealing with police on the side of a dark road.
Never give police a reason to pull you over in the first place. Keep your vehicle in good repair. Keep your registration current. Deal with any traffic tickets (photo enforcement included) promptly to avoid a license suspension. Try not to drive in front of police — they will be looking for any reason to stop you, every moment they are behind you. Don’t speed. The vast majority of cases we handle originated with a traffic stop for speeding, and snowball from there.
In summary, do everything reasonable to avoid interacting with police in the first place, and have a plan about what you will do and say in the event you cannot avoid police. Think through some scenarios, perhaps role-play them with friends, and, remember, the less you say, the better.
This article is courtesy of http://krazlaw.com.