Have you ever wondered what you'd do if you were driving down a North Carolina highway and a police vehicle came up from behind with lights flashing in an obvious attempt to pull you over? Perhaps you don't have to wonder because it has happened to you in the past. Hopefully, you were already aware of what to do and not do in such situations. Traffic stops can be quite tricky to navigate. If you say or do the wrong thing, you may wind up getting a ticket.
Worse than that, you could even wind up facing drug charges if something you do or say causes the police officer to suspect you have committed a crime. The warnings you've likely heard about self-incrimination are definitely applicable to traffic stops. If you do run into trouble, it's important to know how to protect your rights.
Anything you say or do may be used against you in court
Right from the start, you're under pressure when a police officer lets you know he or she is pulling you over. If you can, it's always best to move swiftly but as safely as possible. It's also a good idea to stop (if you are able) as close to the point on the road as possible where you first became aware you were being pulled over. The following list offers a few more helpful tips:
- Review the scene: One of the reasons you don't want to stop a great distance from the onset of your traffic stop is that you want to be able to request a review of the scene, if necessary. For instance, if the officer says you didn't stop at a stop sign, you might be able to prove that something was obstructing the sign from your vision.
- Do not exit your vehicle: It is never a good idea to try to get out of your car during a traffic stop. The only time you should do so is in compliance to an officer's request. If you try to get out of your car without having been asked, you may bump up the stress level of your situation quite a few notches when the officer kicks into gear to restrain you or orders you back into your car.
- Keep your hands still and visible: Even if you're nervous about a particular item you have in your car at the time, never move your hands in any way that may appear to the officer as though you're trying to hide something. If you do, he or she can immediately search your car.
- Try not to answer direct questions about drugs or alcohol: Answering affirmatively when asked if you've been drinking or if you have taken a prescription drug, etc., is inadvertently helping prosecutors in a quest to obtain a conviction if you later face criminal charges in court. It may be an admission of guilt.
Being polite and cooperative is your best bet to avoid major problems in a traffic stop. If you have a pill bottle on the floor of your car, and you panic and try to hide it, you may very well spend the rest of your day behind bars. You wouldn't be the first person in North Carolina to get pulled over in a traffic stop and wind up facing drug charges because of something you said or did while the officer was questioning you.
You can protect your rights and fight against charges, just as you can contest a traffic ticket in court. Most people find their chances of winning in court are better if they act alongside experienced legal representation.