Many people are confused about their rights and responsibilities when they get pulled over by the police. On this “What to do if pulled over” page you will learn what North Carolina law requires you to do, and how to best protect yourself when you are being investigated by the police. Our Raleigh DWI attorneys are available for a free consultation if you or a family member have been arrested and need a lawyer.
When you get pulled over by the police you are under their control, but you are not yet under arrest. You are required to provide them your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration when they ask for these documents. The police will generally ask you if the address on your driver’s license is current. You should give the police your current address. You should not, however, engage in any other conversations with the police.
When the police begin asking you where you are going, where you are coming from, or any other questions about your daily activities they are conducting an investigation. Although these questions may seem harmless enough, your answers may give the police grounds to detain you longer. The longer you are detained, the more likely you will go to jail.
Police are trained to “look beyond the stop.” This is cop speak for investigating you for more than the reason they stopped you. Police are trained to always keep an eye out for three things on a vehicle stop. They are trained to look for signs that you have been drinking alcohol, signs you may be transporting drugs or drug money, and signs that you are being evasive or hiding something.
You are not required to answer the police officer’s questions. If you do answer their questions the court will likely find that you voluntarily gave the police the information they requested. Your rights are affected by whether you are being detained, are under arrest, or are in a voluntary encounter with the police.
The police are allowed to start a conversation with anyone they like. Just like you could walk up to a stranger in a Target and begin talking to them, the police are allowed to do the same thing. The difference, of course, is that when someone wearing a uniform and carrying a gun walks up to you, he is carrying the force of the government. Human nature makes us want to be polite, answer their questions, and cooperate with the police. Doing so, however, can land you in jail and facing charges.
You should not be rude to the police if you are pulled over. You are most likely being video and audio recorded from the time before you are stopped until you are released to the jail, or released to leave the scene of the car stop. If you are charged with a crime this videotape will be played for the judge or jury, and they do not like it when people are rude to police.
A better way to handle a car stop is to remain calm, and politely decline to answer any questions the officer asks of you. You do not have to explain why you do not wish to answer his questions. You can simply say, “I do not wish to engage in a conversation with you.” Typically, the police will say something like, “Why don’t you want to talk to me? Are you hiding something?” or “Only guilty people will not talk to the police.” Do not fall for these tricks. Officers are trained to put you on the defensive, and if you begin responding to these conversation tools the police will be able to illicit a lot of information from you that you are not even aware they are gathering. Things such as,
Whether your speech is slurred, mumbled, or otherwise incoherent;
Whether you can keep and convey a clear train of thought;
Whether you are talking rapidly, or abnormally slow;
Whether your responses are direct responses to the questions the officer asks you;
Whether you are overly talkative and trying to over-explain or justify yourself;
Whether you admit to the reason the officer stopped you in the first place;
Whether you admit to coming from an area known for criminal activity;
Whether you admit to coming from an area known for bars – such as downtown Raleigh.
Each one of these things can give the police a reasonable suspicion, when combined with other observations, that you have been drinking alcohol. Once the officer has come to believe you have been drinking, he will ask you to perform the field sobriety tests, and you are on your way to getting charged with a DWI in North Carolina.
If you have ever wondered what to do if pulled over, we hope this page gives you some understanding. If you have any questions then post them on our Facebook page, or the comment section of our blogs. If you have been arrested, contact one of our Wake County DWI attorneys, or Raleigh DWI attorneys right now for a free, no obligation consultation. The North Carolina DWI attorneys at Wilson Williams Law are here to serve you.