Timothy O. McCalep

Know your rights and responsibilities during a traffic stop

Seeing the flashing lights of a police vehicle in your rear view mirror can conjure up fear. It is imperative that you understand your rights and responsibilities so that you can try to ensure that the traffic stop doesn't turn into a nightmare.

With all of the instances of police misconduct and brutality, many people are afraid when they are being pulled over. This is understandable but you can't let your fear lead you to make mistakes during the traffic stop. Here are some points to remember if you are pulled over by police:

Stop in a safe place

One of the most important things that you can do is to stop in a safe place. Just remember that you can't make it seem like you are fleeing from the officer. Drive the speed limit and follow traffic laws until you can stop. Typically, being in a well lit area is ideal; however, you might have to pull over on the side of the road if there aren't other options close by where you first saw the flashing lights.

Remain respectful and calm

When you are dealing with the officer, try to remain respectful and calm. Sometimes, police officers will have a way about them that infuriates you. Letting them get to you in that manner will almost certainly lead to an unpleasant incident. Instead of acting angry and getting upset, pay attention to what is going on and make a report about the matter to the appropriate officials.

Know your legal rights

You have the right to remain silent when you are dealing with police. You do have to give your name and you need to provide the documents required during a traffic stop. Specifically state that you are exercising your right to remain silent if you choose this option. It is also necessary to determine whether you are being detained, being arrested, or are free to go. If you are free to leave, do so calmly. When you are arrested, you do have the right to have an attorney with you. This should also be stated clearly if you choose to invoke this right.

Collect proof

If you have someone with you, get them to videotape the traffic stop. If you don't, consider starting the video camera and setting it down so that at least the audio is being recorded. In all cases, you should jot down everything you can remember about the stop as soon as it is safe to do so. This ensures that your memory will remain the same even as time progresses. It might also help if you have to speak to an attorney about potential violations of your civil rights.

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