What to Do When You Have Been Pulled Over by Police—Part Two—Your Initial Exchange with the Officer


You’re on the road and see flashers in your rearview mirror. You safely and promptly pull over to the side of the road. The next few moments will likely be critical, determining whether you’ll drive away with a warning, or with something worse. Here are some tips to help you through this stressful and intimidating situation.

  • Turn off your vehicle immediately—This signals the officer that you are not likely to provide resistance or to try to flee.
  • Turn on the interior light, if it’s after dark—Turning on your light indicates you have nothing to hide, and it can ease any anxiety the officer has.
  • Stay in your car!—This is perhaps the most important advice. If you try to get out of your car (without the officer’s request to do so), it can be perceived as an aggressive act.
  • Engage in acts of courtesy—Roll down the window before the officer gets to your car, put out your cigarette (if you were smoking), discard any gum and turn off the stereo.
  • Wait for the officer to ask questions or instruct you to do something—Don’t try to fish your registration out of the glove box or pull your wallet out of your pocket until the officer asks you to do so. The officer may be as nervous as you are—many officers have been seriously injured and killed in traffic stops—so don’t do anything that may be wrongly perceived as an aggressive act.

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