Chances are, you’ve probably never had a personal encounter with a law enforcement officer. But chances are also likely that if you have had a personal encounter with an officer of the law, it was during a common traffic stop.


Perhaps you were going faster than the posted speed limit, texting while driving, driving without using your lights or turn signals, driving with an expired tag, or any number of assorted common infractions that result in a traffic stop. And if you’re like most people, you get your citation and move on. No doubt that it’s a tense and bewildering situation, which could possibly leave even the coolest of subjects a little frazzled and thinking a little less than clearly. Here are a few things to remember if you ever see those flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror.


  1. Pull over and stop as soon as safely possible – This will be a benefit whether they’re pulling you over or not. If they’re pulling you over, mission accomplished; if they’re trying to get past you to tend to another issue, you’re safely out of the way and have successfully complied with the law.


  1. Turn the car off and turn on an interior light – These are both goodwill gestures meant to put the officer at ease. Turning the car off shows them that you don’t intend to pull off quickly and turning on an interior light (if it’s dark) gives the officer a better view of what it is you’re doing.


  1. Roll your window down just enough to exchange documents and communicate verbally – A common tactic for police officers is to lean in as close as possible to state that they detect the smell of something, which serves as an excuse to escalate the stop. Don’t roll the window down all the way if you don’t have to.


  1. Move slowly and carefully and keep your hands visible at all times – This is another goodwill gesture toward the officer in an effort to give them something less to worry about. Not only does it show compliance on your part, but it helps to remove their suspicion over your intentions and movement.


  1. Don’t answer the question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” – This question is often used to bait you into admitting guilt and possibly even something other than the real reason they pulled you over, so your answer to this question should always be “No.”


Oftentimes, it’s probably at this point that the officer will tell you what you did, issue you a citation if you’ve complied up until this point, and allow you to go freely.


But it doesn’t always go this smoothly…


If that’s not the case, there’s a slight chance that you’re being arrested. Unfortunately, if that’s the case, your best move is to comply and cooperate with them until you are booked and allowed to make a phone call.


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