Do’s And Don’ts if Stopped By Police
Police Officers and State Troopers can pull you over for a variety of reasons, ranging from equipment failure (broken headlight) to speeding, to erratic driving. Almost everyone gets pulled over sooner or later. How you handle being pulled over can influence how your interaction with the officer will go.
Now That I Have Been Stopped.
The rock band “The Police” chose their name for the feeling we all get in the pit of our stomach when we get pulled over. Understand that most officers, when making a traffic stop, are feeling two things: suspicion, and anxiety. They are anxious because they don’t know what’s going to happen when they get to your driver’s side window. They are suspicious because they believe you have violated a motor vehicle law.
So, when you see those blue lights in your rear view mirror, pull over as soon as you can safely do so and lower the driver’s side window. If it’s nighttime, flip on your dome light and put both hands in plain view on the steering wheel.
Do these things immediately and before the officer is approaching your car. We hear of media reports about officers getting shot during motor vehicle stops. They live with that fear. When you take that fear away, you’ve also taken away some of the officer’s discomfort. That can only make things better for you.
A Word About Rolling The Window Down.
You might have had a drink or two. If you have, and all the windows are up, the odor of alcohol from your breath will have built up inside your car. Most DUI police reports I read start almost exactly like this: “I approached the driver’s side window. As I leaned in, the driver rolled the window down and I was immediately met with the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle.”
When I’m meeting with a client for the first time, I always ask whether they rolled their window down before the officer got to their door. If you have, then you have taken that first damaging observation away from the officer.
Wait For Instructions From An Officer.
Notice that I did not suggest you have your license and registration ready when the officer gets to your door. Most likely the officer is going to request them but getting those items would be too much activity in your car at a time when the officer can see your movement, but can’t tell what you are doing. So wait until you have been asked for the items.
Instead, have your hands on the wheel and don’t move. Sit and wait for instructions from the officer. Don’t get out of the car unless and until the officer tells you to. The officer will ask you to get your license and registration. It’s a good idea to know, in advance, where the registration is in any car you are driving. The standards for traffic stops and roadside sobriety tests are issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and police officers are trained to those standards. Producing your license and registration is considered a “divided attention test,” because you are paying attention to the officer while performing the task he has directed you to perform. Officers will note in their reports when you fumble or have difficulty producing these items, and they will say that it is a sign of impairment.
NH Criminal Defense Lawyer.
There is much more to know and I will cover other aspects in future blogs. If you have been arrested for a crime, it is important to retain an experienced NH criminal defense attorney who can give you specific legal advice regarding your situation and can help you build your best defense. Contact the New Hampshire criminal defense lawyers at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form.