You're driving and you see that a police officer's car has its lights flashing behind you. You hope the officer is just trying to get around you, but the officer shines his spotlight on you, and you know you're getting pulled over. While drivers all react differently to being pulled over, they all have some kind of reaction. Some drivers panic and quickly admit to everything, while others get angry and defensive. The way a driver reacts to being pulled over can carry the possibility of serious negative consequences, which could have been avoided by responding to the incident in the best possible way. FindLaw's Getting Pulled Over section discusses the best way to handle a traffic stop, the rules surrounding traffic stops and the legality of roadblocks and DUI checkpoints.
How to Handle a Traffic Stop
It's important to handle a traffic stop in the correct way so that you receive minimal punishment. When you see the flashing lights and/or the white spotlight of a police officer's car behind you, make sure you pull over as quickly and safely as possible. If pulling over safely means that you have to get off the freeway or go a little while before pulling over, you need to make it clear to the officer that you intend to pull over when it's safe.
Once you have pulled over, roll down the window, turn off the engine, and put your hands on the steering wheel. These actions allow the officer to feel confident that you're not going to drive away and that you don't have a weapon. It's important not to reach for anything until the officer asks you for your driver's license and registration. You also should not get out of the car unless the officer asks you to get out of it.
Finally, it's important to be compliant and polite during your entire interaction with the officer. While you might be feeling angry or wronged, being rude and aggressive will only irritate the officer. And let's face it: the officer has the upper hand in the situation, so making the officer angry will only worsen your situation. While you should be compliant, it's also important not to say anything that can be used against you. It's best to give noncommittal responses, and not say anything that can be used against you.
Roadblocks and DUI Checkpoints
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally speaking, officers are supposed to get a search warrant before performing a search. There are some circumstances, however, in which an officer doesn't need a warrant because the search and/or seizure is "reasonable." A search and/or seizure is considered reasonable if the officer has probable cause to believe that the search and/or seizure is necessary.
Roadblocks and DUI checkpoints seem to be contrary to the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. In these instances officers stop all cars going through the area, which means that they lack probable cause for each car because they haven't even had time to assess the situation of each car. But, the Supreme Court has used a balancing test for roadblocks which involves balancing the government's interest and the burden on individuals. Using this balancing test for DUI checkpoints, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state has a strong interest in preventing drunk driving, which outweighed the people's right to privacy. As for roadblocks, the Supreme Court has concluded that the roadblock must have a specific purpose outside the normal purpose of preventing crime. An example of a specific purpose is when police set up a roadblock to gather information about a hit-and-run accident that occurred at the same location and time of night as the roadblock.
Hiring a Lawyer
Many times you can take care of your traffic ticket yourself. However, if you have questions or feel that your situation is complicated, it might be a good idea to contact a traffic ticket attorney to help you. A DUI is a much more serious charge, and if you've been charged with a DUI, you should contact a DUI attorney.