Being pulled over by the police can be nerve-wracking. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to get arrested or sentenced. If you know how to act with the police and think through your strategies, you’ll come out of it safely.
The following tips may come in handy when you’re dealing with a police encounter:
Acting hostile or defensive with the police would only make matters worse for you. Your tone matters a lot in incidents like these. Try and be polite as you can. Any accidental slip of the tongue can be later used against you in a court of law. Don’t use force and don’t speed away.
If an officer asks you to stop, just say ‘sure’. Hand over your license and registration documents (if you’re asked) without arguing back. If you need to reach into your purse or a wallet, ask for the officer’s permission and wait.
Limit the conversation
It’s not a great idea to open up to the police officer about the details of the incident. If you’ve just met an accident, you only need to narrate your side of the story in front of the judge. The police officer has no legal authority to decide your fate based on whatever happened. There is no point in explaining that you’re not guilty.
Instead of narrating too many details, engage in reflective listening. If the officer asks if you know why you’ve been stopped, you should answer no. If they ask you if you were aware of the speed that you were driving at, just say yes. Don’t add anything substantive to the conversation. Try and reply with ‘I understand’, ‘I see’, and ‘hmms’ as much as you can. You can also choose not to answer any questions if you don’t want to.
Choosing to remain silent doesn’t mean you’re admitting guilt. It’s only a strategy to prevent anything you say to be used against you in the court. It’s also not a great idea to say ‘Yes officer, I admit that I was speeding and I assure you that I won’t do so again.” This is an indirect admission of guilt.
Don’t consent to search
If you’ve just been stopped on account of a traffic violation, the officer can’t search your car legally. Even if they ask to do so, don’t consent. If the police find some evidence that goes against you, it might be harder for you to challenge it.
Officers usually look for anything incriminating that lies in plain view. Typical examples are roach clips and empty wine bottles to prove that you were drunk driving. The officer might also watch out for any sort of ‘furtive movement.’ If you see the officer and suddenly lower one of your shoulders, the officer might assume that you’re trying to hide something. Avoid doing either of these.