Getting pulled over by authorities makes most drivers nervous, even if they haven’t done anything wrong. When you’re pulled over for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions about what you should do. We’re here to help! Let’s talk about the information you need to communicate when you get pulled over.

Stay Calm

Getting pulled over isn’t any driver’s idea of a good time. However, you must remain calm and don’t make any sudden movements. Take a few deep breaths and wait for the officer to approach your vehicle.

Find a Safe Place to Pull Over

Once you see the officer’s flashing lights behind your vehicle, find a safe place to pull over. Finding a safe place to pull your vehicle over is the start of the entire process of your interaction with the officer. Safely and quickly find an area on the right shoulder of the road or highway to pull over. Once you find a safe spot, use the appropriate signal to pull off to the side of the road, and turn your hazard lights on.

Make sure you pull over to the right side of the road. Pulling over to the left side of the road puts you and the officer in danger, and you could cause an accident. Pulling over to the left side can also be viewed as reckless driving, and you could be issued a ticket in addition to the reason you were pulled over, which could result in a ticket.

If you are pulled over at night, find a well-lit, safe area to pull over. Well-lit areas are best because the officer can see you and you can them.

Before You Do and Say Anything

Before the officer approaches your vehicle, make sure your car is in park and turn off the ignition. You’ll need to roll your window down and keep your hands on top of your steering wheel where the officer can easily see them. If you are pulled over at night, turn on the interior light in your car.

Don’t rummage through your glove compartment or your pockets, as this can be viewed as suspicious by the officer. Although you will be asked for your license and registration, don’t tear up your vehicle looking for it. Wait for the officer to ask for it, and then proceed to get the required documentation. If you need a minute to locate these documents, let the officer know.

Cooperation is a Must

You should always cooperate with lawful officer requests. If you are asked, give your first and last name and current address. Police officers are not required to tell you why they pulled you over, not initially. You may be asked to stay in the car or step outside your car. Do ask the officer asks. There’s no need for confusion, so make sure you remain cordial. It doesn’t hurt to be polite.

Let the Officer Speak

Once the officer starts talking, allow him/her to speak. Don’t cut the officer off each time they’re trying to talk and give you information. When you are asked for your driver’s license and vehicle registration, provide the documents without acting hostile or defensive. Also, don’t badger the officer to tell you why they’ve pulled you over. Instead, you can reply with “sure” or “of course”. Once the officer has these documents, they may stand at your vehicle window for a few seconds before walking back to their patrol car.

Avoid Admissions of Guilt

Whether you were or were not doing the action that you are accused of (why you were pulled over), avoid admitting that you were in the wrong. Saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I was speeding, but”, is an admission of guilt. Admitting such things is incriminating, and whether you were or were not breaking the law, listen to what the officer says and follow their directions.

Keep Things Simple

You should never lie to a police officer, but keep your answers brief and respectful. You’ll likely be asked, “Do you know why I stopped you/pulled you over?” Your answer should be no. Once again, don’t incriminate yourself. The officer will likely tell you why they pulled you over. You will likely get a ticket and can be on your way unless you have done something major, such as drunk driving (DUI).

Do Not Consent to a Vehicle Search

The officer may request to search your vehicle. You should never consent to a vehicle search. Why? It will be difficult to challenge evidence that is found in your vehicle if you agree to the search. However, if the officer has a legitimate reason to search your vehicle, they will do so whether you give your permission or not.

You should also know that if an officer requests you to step out of your vehicle, they can legally search you for weapons if they have reason to believe you are dangerous. If the officer finds any weapons or anything suspicious while performing the search, they can take a further look, which can include searching your vehicle.

Officers and Cell Phone Searches

Likely, an officer won’t ask to check or search your cell phone. However, if the request to search your phone is made, you can decline. Officers can’t search your cell phone without a warrant or your consent.

Vehicle Searches If You’ve Been Arrested

If you’ve been arrested and your vehicle is towed, the police officer can make an inventory search, even if they don’t have a reason to suspect there is anything illegal inside your vehicle. So, this goes without saying, but don’t keep illegal items in your vehicle. If you have a permit for a weapon, that could be a different story, but in this situation, you need to tell the officer.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

You won’t need a lawyer simply because you were pulled over. However, depending on the reason you were pulled over and if the officer has reason to suspect anything, you may or may not require legal consultation.

Avoid Quick Movements

Quick and sudden movements may give the officer reason to believe you’re hiding something, so don’t make any moves until the officer asks you do to so. However, you should still communicate to the officer what you’re doing so there is no confusion.

Do I Have to Exit My Vehicle?

There’s no wiggle room on this request. If an officer asks you to step outside of your vehicle, you don’t have the right to refuse this request. It doesn’t matter if you are pulled over for a minor or major offense. Again, do as you are asked without hostility.

Sobriety and Drug and Alcohol Testing

In general, drivers aren’t asked to participate in a field sobriety test (FST), so you won’t face a penalty for choosing not to participate. During traffic stops, before a DUI arrest is made, an officer may ask if you are willing to take a breathalyzer test. This is the time when you have the right to refuse the test.

However, if you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), the implied consent law becomes effective. Implied consent laws vary for each state. Each driver who is lawfully arrested for DUI must cooperate with the officer’s request to complete a sobriety test.

In general, an officer will request a blood or breath test. At this point, drivers who refuse to complete one of these tests can lead to different consequences, which can include driver’s license suspension.

Getting pulled over isn’t a walk in the park, but it also doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Follow the rules of the law, and if you are pulled over, cooperate. Stay focused and happy driving!