Everybody knows that feeling. That uneasy feeling you get when you see a police car in your rearview mirror. Then, the officer's lights start flashing and you realize that you are getting pulled over. You start to feel anxious and maybe even begin to panic a little bit. Many people start feeling this way even when they have done absolutely nothing wrong.
Here's what I'm getting at: it's important to be aware of your basic rights before you get put in this position. That way, when you start to get that nervous feeling, you will hopefully be able to remember some of the basic “Dos and Don'ts” associated with police stops.
As a DUI/DWI defense attorney who works with clients in both Kansas and Missouri, I often get asked the following questions: “What do I need to do if I get pulled over?” and “Do I have to let the officer search my car?” I wanted to take a little bit of time and go over these and other related questions.
(1) What should I do when I get pulled over? First, try to remain calm. Next, stop your vehicle in a safe place as quickly as possible. Once stopped, turn off the engine and open the window part way. Keep your hands visible. It's a good idea to be prepared to give your license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration to the officer when he requests it.
(2) Do I have to let the officer search my car? In most cases, the answer is no. Keep in mind that not all traffic stops will lead to the officer requesting the consent to search your vehicle. Ok, so the basic rule is that you can refuse. However, if the officer has reason to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime, it can be searched without our consent.
Further, no matter whether you are the driver or a passenger in the vehicle you have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you may be allowed to leave. In this case, politely ask the officer if you are free to leave. If he says yes, you may stay or quietly leave. If he says no, you nevertheless have the right to remain silent.
If you end up getting arrested, it is important to stay calm and comply with the officer's instructions. Do not resist arrest. Make it clear that you wish to remain silent and that you want to see your attorney immediately. Do not try and give the officer any excuses as to why the incident occurred. Do not say or sign anything before you meet with your attorney.
Keep in mind however, that basic identification questions by police should be answered. For example, if the officer asks you your name while arresting you, you should respond with your correct name. Do not lie.
This is just some general information that is helpful to know in case you ever get pulled over or arrested by local law enforcement. If you have been charged with DUI/DWI in Kansas or Missouri, give my office a call. We can discuss the facts of your case and review your options.