No one likes being pulled over by the police, at any time. Even if you weren’t doing anything wrong, or perhaps know you committed a minor traffic infraction, it can be nerve-wracking. Of course, it is even worse if you fear you may have had a couple of drinks and could be legally impaired.
However, there are both good ways of handling this experience and bad ones that can cause the situation to escalate unnecessarily.
According to the Boston Police Department, you must keep a number of important realities in mind when you see those flashing lights suddenly appear behind you on the road. After carefully pulling your car over to a safe spot, turn the ignition off. Next, stay calm and listen to what the officer asks you to do.
- Do not panic. While chances are you were going too fast, ran a red light or broke another traffic rule, the officer may just be trying to alert you to a broken tail light;
- Unless first told to put your hands on the steering wheel, switch on your interior light. This signals the officer that you care about his/her safety and want to do the right thing;
- Stay in your car. The police have every reason to be concerned if you start getting out of your vehicle. So, stay put;
- Be ready to locate your driver’s license and registration;
- If you forgot to fasten your seatbelt, it’s too late now. When a police officer sees you suddenly reaching around in your car – before asking to see your driver’s license and car registration papers — he or she has every reason to fear that you may be searching for a weapon or trying to hide drugs or other contraband;
- Keep in mind that the officer still has no idea who you are. While your personal identity shouldn’t alter the course of events overall, the officer has every reason to interact with you in a cautious manner;
- Don’t be afraid if multiple patrol cars appear. This is a practice that some officers use to make sure that a traffic stop is going smoothly and that the officer’s life is not being threatened;
- The police may be justified in “sneaking up” on your car. Remember, since you are still an unknown person to the police just after they’ve been pulled you over, they must act carefully. Far too many law enforcement officers encounter violence during such stops. Once they see you are being cooperative, they will fully show themselves to you;
- Don’t act nervously while the officer is checking out your I.D. The police need time to see if there is a warrant out for your arrest, whether the vehicle you’re driving is stolen or if some other problem requires their attention before returning to your car;
- Accept any ticket given to you and don’t argue about it now. Never try to talk your way out of a ticket since you’re likely to cause matters to get even worse. The only people who can dismiss tickets are clerk magistrates or judges;
- You can appeal your ticket. All you must do to appeal is simply fill out the back side of the ticket, per the instructions, and mail it in. Within six to eight weeks, you’ll receive a summons. You must then appear for a hearing before a clerk magistrate. It’s at this time that you can present your arguments as to why you believe you were given the ticket improperly.
Remember, the law requires you to present your identification to the officer once it’s been requested. You’re free to write the officer’s name down on your ticket if you can’t read his or her signature. Be polite. The police are simply trying to do their job and are well aware of the risks posed to their own lives by making traffic stops.
If you’ve been arrested or accused of any crime, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Matson. As a defense attorney, he can provide you with the helpful advice you’ll need for handling any charges that have been brought against you. Call (781) 380-7730.
By Elizabeth Smith