Police may use a pretext such as a broken taillight or illegal turn to stop your car, conduct a search and arrest you. This may begin a consequential encounter with the criminal justice system.
During a stop, police are deciding whether a motorist or their passengers did something illegal and whether they can make an arrest for crimes including drug crimes and other nonviolent offenses. Police may make false assurance and even lie to you.
Fortunately, the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions and several laws restrict police. Protecting these rights during a traffic stop, however, requires you to remember these three guidelines:
- Be courteous at all times. This may make the encounter easier for you and avoid antagonizing a friendly police officer.
- Resist every police request until you must comply. Never physically resist but you should verbally and respectfully refuse every request until it becomes obvious that you will be arrested for noncompliance.
- Do not answer questions. You are never required, despite what the officer may say, to speak to the police or answer their questions without having your attorney present. Never lie.
When the police flash their lights
Pull over to the curb and stop immediately. Follow police instructions if they want you to move to a safer location. Turn off the vehicle and engage the emergency brake.
If it is dark, turn on your dome light so the police can see what you are doing.
Roll down your windows ¼ of the way so you can speak and pass documents to the officer. Do not comply requests to roll the window down further because police often place their head into the vehicle and claim that they smell alcohol or marijuana or invade your personal space. Place your hands on the wheel.
Decline to answer the routine police question: do you know why you were stopped. Do not answer other questions about your activities or where you were. If requested, provide police with your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Politely refuse any requests to leave your car. If the police insist, ask the reason but you should follow this instruction.
Before you leave your car, you need to roll your windows completely up, lock the doors and tell the officer that you do not consent to a search of you and your vehicle.
Respectfully but persistently ask the officer if you are free to go or being detained. Police may avoid answering this question, but you may leave if they say you are free to go.
The criminal justice system can be confusing and intimidating. Kammen & Moudy can offer you the experienced support you need.