MES MILLER, EARLE & SHANKS, PLLC Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
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How do you handle a traffic stop?

A police car in your rearview mirror is seldom a good thing. If you are lucky, you will receive a warning for a mechanical issue on your vehicle. More likely, however, the officer is about to inform you of an infraction or violation that may result in anything from a minor disruption to a major change in your life.

In some cases, the actions of the driver can take a simple traffic stop and turn it into something much worse. One smart thing you can do to prevent this happening to you is to educate yourself about your rights and the limitations of police when they pull you over.

Plan for the moment

Do you know what to do when a police car comes up behind you with its lights flashing? If you don't, you are liable to panic and make a terrible mistake. Speeding up or trying to get away is not a wise move, and the situation could end in tragedy.

Instead, find a safe place to pull over to the right, turn off your vehicle and roll your window partway down. While the officer alerts headquarters of his or her location, you can retrieve your license and registration so you can keep your hands in plain sight when speaking with the officer. Once the officer approaches your vehicle, keep these things in mind:

  • You should not admit that you have broken a law even if the officer asks if you know why he or she pulled you over. Instead, you can ask why the officer stopped you.
  • Be polite and cordial, but don't say too much, even if you feel nervous. Making excuses may cause you to say something that incriminates you.
  • If the officer writes you a ticket, sign it without arguing. You can fight the charges in court if appropriate.
  • Never touch the officer, make threats or physically resist.
  • If the officer asks you to get out of your vehicle, you must obey, but you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle unless the officer has a warrant.
  • You would be wise to learn your rights related to Virginia's drunk driving laws and whether it is in your best interests to submit to roadside sobriety tests or preliminary breath tests.

Whether you drive away with a traffic citation or ride off in handcuffs, you can reach out for legal counsel for the most appropriate steps to take to resolve the matter. An attorney can review the details of the traffic stop and help you determine the best course of action for the most positive outcome possible.

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