28 March 2004

Becky Dale points this article out on how one should act when pulled over by a police officer. In general it contains some good suggestions (particularly the parts about not giving the officer a statement to work with or letting him search your car) however, there are some sections which must be considered advisedly:
If you have a firearm or other deadly weapon in the car, tell the officer and explain where the weapon is located.
As a safety matter this is probably the safest way to act and if you are going into your glove box to get your registration be certain to tell the officer if there is a gun in it. However, be aware that if a firearm is not in plain sight in the cab of the car you are likely to be charged with having a concealed weapon. Minor facts such as your inability to reach it while it was locked away in a compartment in the right side of your extended cab with no ammunition in the vehicle (much less the firearm) are of no matter. The fact that it is far more responsible to travel with the firearm locked away is no defense either. The only defense is if you have a concealed carry permit. Remember, by not telling the officer about a weapon you are exercising your right not to incriminate yourself; you are also taking a chance that some trigger happy rookie might see a barrel sticking out from under your passenger seat as you lean over to get your registration out of the glove box. Choose your actions carefully.
Women driving alone at night should be extra-cautious when a police car has flashing lights on and the officer is signaling them to pull over. A woman has every right to continue driving in a safe manner to a well-lit area, such as a convenience store lot, a gas station or a shopping center. If the officer is in an unmarked police car or in civilian clothes, the woman should ask him to summon a marked car. If he refuses, use your cell phone to call 911. Before reaching for the phone, however, explain what you are doing; otherwise the officer may think you are going for a weapon.

Turn off the ignition. Turn on the interior lights. Thereafter, keep your hands in plain view.
I see this often suggested. If you choose to act in this manner realize that you will be technically guilty of eluding an officer and probably obstruction of justice. If the lighted area isn't a block or two away you can expect to draw at least one other car and to be subject to a felony stop (two angry officers treating you as they would someone they think has a a firearm and is desperate enough to use it). The article is wrong when it says you have a "right" to act in this manner; you must weigh the pros and cons yourself as to whether you are in a situation where you feel your safety demands that you act outside the law.

For goodness sake, if you suspect you are being pulled over by someone who is not an officer don't wait until you are pulled over to call 911. The window of your car is not going to stop a criminal from getting to you. Call while you are still driving.
If the officer says you are suspected of driving "under the influence" of alcohol, you should always agree to a blood, urine or breath test, even if you are innocent.

When you are pulled over you should not do any of the tests the officer wants you to take, you should not take the street breath test, you should not even get out of your car unless the officer ORDERS you to exit the vehicle (do not get out at a request). Heck, I've known lawyers who've handed out cards telling the officer that you fully assert your rights and to arrest you or let you go. The cards came with instructions which said that if you were pulled over to get your license and registration in hand, put the card in between them, roll the window down an inch, shove them all out to the officer. This limits the evidence the officer has for probable cause to what he has witnessed while you were driving (it also absolutely ensures that you will be arrested).

Once you are at the station you must choose whether or not to take the breath test. Technically, you are required to because you drove on a street in Virginia. However, the "civil" penalty for not taking the test is loss of your license for a year. The criminal penalty, if your blood alcohol content is above a certain level or this is a 2d+ conviction within a certain number of years, is mandatory jail time or even a felony conviction. You must choose which path you prefer.

No comments: