It will more than likely happen at least once in your life if it has not already happened several times already—a police traffic stop. I have written so many articles over the years on this topic. Clients, friends, and family often ask us for our counsel and advice on what to do following a police stop to put you in the best position for a good result. A police stop will happen to almost everyone at least once in their driving career, and it’s important to follow some simple rules which still protect your constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure, but may also earn you at least some favor with the officer who stops you. These are very simple rules that will put you in a good position while safeguarding your constitutional right against illegal searches and seizure.
While this isn’t one of the ten things, never ever argue or get into any type of physical altercation with the officer and this will never help your case and only make it worse
Here are my 10 points to follow if police stop your car or vehicle in Pennsylvania or New Jersey:
- Activate your turn signal and drive as close as possible to the right edge of the road. Stop and park your vehicle safely away from traffic. This protects the officer from oncoming traffic that could seriously injure him or worse.
- Turn off your engine and roll down your window so you can communicate with the officer. This shows the officer that you are cooperative but still doesn’t give consent to the officer to search you or your vehicle!
- If it’s dark out, turn on your vehicles’ interior light as soon as you stop and before the officer approaches. This shows that you are concerned about his or her safety.
- Limit your movement and the movements of your passengers. Don’t reach for anything in the vehicle. Movement within the vehicle may cause the officer to ask addition questions or perhaps provide a basis for a warrantless search of the vehicle.
- Alert the officer immediately if you are legally transporting a gun or a firearm in a secure gun box.
- Place your hands on the steering wheel and ask your passengers to have their hands in view. Again this shows concern for the officer’s safety.
- Stay inside your vehicle unless the officers ask you to get out.
- Keep your seatbelt on. Wearing your seatbelt is not only the law in Pennsylvania but it also shows the officer that you aren’t a flight risk and are again respectful of him or her
- Wait until the officer asks you to retrieve your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. Do not hand the officer your wallet, just the requested items.
- Always be polite to the officer. If you disagree with the citation, don’t dispute it with him or her there rather take advantage of your opportunity to ask for a hearing at a later time in the mail
Notice that none of these rules ask that you give consent to police to search your vehicle and I recommend that you never give consent at any time. Not consenting to a search, however, doesn’t mean you get to act like a jerk This point is made in all of my free publications and in my blogs. While police officers in Pennsylvania may perform a warrantless search of your vehicle, giving consent negates all of your Constitutional Rights. While your criminal defense lawyer can challenge whether your consent to search was voluntary, it is a much difficult argument to make especially in cases involving illegal drugs (narcotics), guns (firearms) and DUI.