How to Handle a Traffic Stop

Treadaway & Treadaway Jan. 20, 2017

Getting stopped by a police officer while you’re driving your car is a stressful situation for most of us. Many times you may not even be sure why the officer has stopped you. Your mind is full of questions. Did I go through a red light? Was I speeding? Is my license expired? Has one of my headlights burned out? When the officer walks up to your vehicle it is tempting to launch right into a dialogue — maybe with an undercurrent of anger in it — about why you got pulled over.

However, the best policy is not to do too much talking. It’s best to stay calm and respectful, and let the officer do most of the talking. This is because the more you talk, the more the officer can control the situation. Police officers will sometimes do this by asking questions. “Do you know why I stopped you?” is one. A more probing one is, “You don’t mind if I have a look in your car?”. Both of these questions allow police officers to get information from you that can later be used to prove your guilt, but the second one is actually a way of getting around your 4th Amendment right to refuse search requests. Police officers do not have the right to search your property unless they have probable cause, and that means they must have a sound basis for thinking that you’re hiding something dangerous or illegal. In most cases, that means they can’t search your property without your consent, unless they can convince a judge to sign a search warrant. Getting a search warrant is a time-consuming process, so that’s why some police officers will take the easier path of trying to get you to consent to a search.

The way around this is to simply remain calm, don’t get lured into long conversations, and politely refuse to answer any questions that are designed to get your consent or to get information that you don’t have to divulge. If it’s a simple traffic violation, just let the officer write out your citation, and if you feel you have a case, you can fight it in court later. If it’s something more serious, remember that you don’t have to agree to a search, and that you should ask to see a lawyer as soon as possible, especially if the officer intends to arrest you.

In Georgia, if you or someone you love is involved in a traffic stop that turns more serious, contact Treadaway & Treadaway, Attorney at Law as soon as possible.