Last Updated: 11.05.2020
As your favorite Maryland lawyers, we’re constantly seeking to help you smoothly get through those rough spots in your life. Particularly when you have an encounter with a member of the law enforcement world. Here are a few simple things to know and understand when getting pulled over by a police officer.
The Basics of What to Do When Getting Pulled Over
Rule #1, if you are getting pulled over by police don’t act like a fool! Wearing a Batman outfit doesn’t help!.
Acting like a jerk is a sure-fire, one-way ticket to a body cavity search.
From a law enforcement perspective, they are trained to know that more police officers are killed during car stops than in any other type of encounter.
Cars are whizzing by, criminals may try to shoot at police, and the officer is completely exposed to the elements. Officers will exercise the utmost caution during car stops and courts allow significant leeway for officers in a car stops based upon the string of US Supreme Court cases (starting with US v. Carroll) that we won’t bore you with reciting here.
Here’s what you need to know:
What police can do to you when you’re pulled over
- The police can ask you to step from your vehicle – for no reason at all
- The police can ask your passengers to step from your vehicle – for no reason at all
- The officer can ask for your license and registration
- The police can search your vehicle if they have what is called Reasonable Articulable Suspicion. That you have “fruits, evidence, or instrumentalities” of a crime in your car
- The officer can pat you down, for officer safety of course
- The police can search closed compartments in your car (trunk, locked glovebox) with probable cause
What to Do When Pulled Over
- See Rule #1 – Don’t act like a fool
- Pull the car over to the nearest, safest, well-lit area
- Stay in your car and keep your hands on the wheel and visible. Not showing your hand may give the officer ability to “sweep” the car for weapons. Or whatever else might be in there.
- Remain calm
- Answer questions directly and as briefly as possible
- Provide documentation to your license and registration as quickly and efficiently as possible. One bit of advice is to keep your registration NOT in your glovebox. Keep it somewhere closer if you get nervous.
- Observe if the officer has a dash camera or some other type of recording device to memorialize the traffic stop. Those are designed to keep both YOU and the officer safe. As a former prosecutor, dash cams would either make a police officer a hero or a liar. Usually, there wasn’t much in between. If you see a dashcam, make a mental note and be sure to hire a lawyer who will request it.
- DO NOT admit to anything
- DO NOT give permission to search your car
- POLITELY DECLINE to answer any questions other than your name, driver’s license, insurance, and registration.
- But remain polite.
- If the officer is a jerk, don’t argue. Hire a Maryland lawyer to do it for you in court!
What are my rights when I get pulled over?
Remember, you can record a traffic stop so long as it doesn’t interfere with the officer. ENLawyer Jeremy Eldridge explains what are your rights when you get pulled over in a Maryland traffic stop. He also discusses the case of Sandra Bland below. Watch the full video.
The Bottom Line on Getting Pulled Over
For a police department’s perspective on getting pulled over, check out this webpage from the Idaho State Police. It’s quite informative but is clearly written from a police officer’s perspective. For example, if you are concealing contraband, you don’t need to make the officer’s job easier. Or make your lawyer’s job harder.
Just understand, once have been pulled over, there are literally thousands of Supreme Court and lower-level court cases defining where and how police can search. Lawyers and law enforcement alike spend entire careers walking that fine line between a valid and an illegal car stop.
We take after-hours calls, even from the local precinct.