Knowing what to do during a traffic stop can be hard. It is very easy to become nervous when police lights appear in the rearview mirror, and looking for a place to pull over, especially on a busy roadway, can be difficult. Here, a Loudoun County speeding ticket lawyer describes the process of a traffic stop, and provides advice on how to act, respond to the officer, and provide them with the necessary documentation for the vehicle.
If a Loudoun County police officer is signaling for you to pull over, you need to do so in the first possible safe place. In general, this is on the right shoulder of the highway. If there is no shoulder, then you need to find the next safest spot. Sometimes, this requires the driver to exit the highway or to drive until there is a shoulder.
If you are going to continue driving while looking for a safe spot, you should signal to the officer to let him know that you’ve seen him by turning on your hazard lights.
Once pulled over, you should roll down your window so that you can speak to the officer and pass documents back and forth.
You should try to not be a distraction, so keep your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them and don’t interrupt. The officer will eventually ask you for your license and registration, at which point you can obviously take your hands off the steering wheel and reach into your glove compartment or wherever you keep your documents and then slowly hand them back to the officer so that he knows you’re not going to make any sudden movements or do anything that might put him in danger.
The officers will sometimes ask questions regarding whether you know why you were pulled over or if you knew what your speed was. These types of questions aren’t required to be answered, so it is recommended that people not answer these. What the officer is doing is trying to collect evidence to use against you later in court. The best thing you can do is not give him anything to use against you. But you should remain cooperative and polite throughout the entire interaction.
If you’re pulled over at night, there are more safety concerns because a darker highway with a vehicle on the side of the road is a target for vehicles that aren’t paying attention. At night, you should be more aware of your surroundings and find somewhere that’s well-lit and safe to pull over. Some people are concerned about their own safety at night—not just from other cars, but also from the police officers—so it is okay to be extra cautious and drive somewhere that’s well lit and more populated, such as a gas station.
A nighttime stop is really not much different from a daytime stop. With those things in mind, a speeding ticket attorney in Loudoun might suggest that you may want to turn on your interior light, so that the officer can better see you and inside your vehicle. This shows that you’re trying to be cooperative and that you’re not trying to hide anything.
It’s okay to look at the ticket later. There’s nothing on the ticket that you need to immediately look at and address. You shouldn’t be stepping out of your vehicle anyway, so if there was something on the ticket that you had a question about, it’s not the best thing for you to run to the officer to ask him about it. Anything that you’re concerned about can be brought up later with a Loudoun County speeding ticket attorney and it can be addressed later on in court.
If you’re pulled over by an unmarked vehicle, the officer is in plain clothes, and you’re concerned that this person may not be a legitimate police officer, you may ask to see a badge. The problem with this is most people don’t know what a police officer’s badge is supposed to look like, so if someone were to present a fake one, you might not be aware of it. A better option is to call the non-emergency police dispatch line and ask them if there’s a vehicle that has been pulled over in that specific location. If there isn’t and that police officer is not a real police officer, dispatch will immediately send a police officer to the scene.
During a traffic stop, the biggest mistakes to avoid are giving the police officer any evidence that they can use against you later on in court. You don’t want to build a case against yourself and make the police’s job easier. A lot of times, people think it’s best to be honest with the police officer and admit to whatever speed they were going or give excuses to try to explain themselves. These things may seem like the right thing to do, but in the long term, you’re just complicating your problem further.
Another big mistake to avoid during a traffic stop is being uncooperative, rude, or frustrated with the officer. Usually, the judge will ask the officer in court whether the defendant was polite and cooperative throughout the interaction, before he issues the sentence. If the police officer says no, then you run the risk of having the judge issue a harsher sentence because you were uncooperative with the police officer. You should also never turn off your vehicle during a stop, just in case it doesn’t turn on again. Lastly, you should never exit your vehicle unless you are specifically instructed to do so. You should remain in your vehicle with your hands where the officer can see them.
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