Being stopped by police when you are driving can be very intimidating. Fear and surprise may accompany these stops but you need to think clearly and remember your rights. You must avoid making statements and taking actions that can have long-term and profoundly serious consequences.

When you are stopped

You have important civil rights when you are pulled over during a police stop. When this occurs, park your vehicle in a safe and preferably lighted area as soon as you can. Turn off the car’s ignition, lower your window only part way and keep your hands on the steering wheel.

You can refuse a police request to search inside your vehicle. But police may conduct a search without your consent if the officer believes that your vehicle contains evidence of a crime.

You and your passenger have the constitutional right to remain silent. Passenger should ask if they may leave. If the officer allows this, passengers should leave or stay silent.

If requested, you must show police your operator’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

Keep in mind

Stay calm and do not attempt to drive or run away. Do not argue, restrict, or obstruct the police even if you are innocent of any crime or your rights are being violated. Always keep your hands in plain view.

If you are outside the car, you may refuse a police search of yourself or your belongings. Police, however, may pat down your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon.

You have the right to remain silent. Police cannot punish you for refusing to answer their questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the police officer. Never lie.

Do not answer police questions about, for example, where you drove, your activities or how much you drank.

Arrests

Never resist an arrest, even if you believe it is unfair. If police place you under arrest, you have the right to ask the reason.

Clearly state your wish to remain silent. Ask to speak to an attorney immediately. Do not offer any explanations or excuses when you make this request.

The criminal justice system is complicated and intimidating. Attorneys can help assure that your rights are protected.