Pulled over by police officers on Tybee Island?
Few sinking feelings rival the one when flashing lights appear in your rear view mirror and the siren of a police vehicle splatters into the darkness. Your eyes dart to the speedometer, you check to see that your lights were on, you question how long it’s been since you had a drink last (even if it’s been days), and panic grows as you wonder, “why me?”
The key is to stay calm. So many times police officers just use this as an opportunity to educate the public – it doesn’t necessarily mean a ticket or arrest. Maybe they wanted to talk to you about your breaking patterns, how closely you follow other cars, or advise you that there’s a tail light out on your car.
Turn on your flashers to alert the officer that you see him and you’re going to pull over once you find a safe place to do so. Many people think they have to pull over right away or risk far worse charges, but that’s not the case. By pulling over in an unsafe area, like where there is no shoulder, you’re putting your life and that of the police officer’s at risk.
Once you do find a safe place to pull over, turn off your engine and roll down your window. I would also advise you to turn on the doom light to assure the officer you have nothing to hide. These endeavors on your part show that you care about his or her safety and gives the impression that you will most likely be polite and respectful. Often times these efforts on your part show the officer that this won’t be a bothersome encounter and it defuses them before they get out of the vehicle.
Keep your hands where the officer can see them – preferably on the steering wheel – and don’t reach for anything without permission. When he or she asks for your driver’s license, registration or insurance information, tell him where it is located first before reaching for it. If it’s in your bag or purse, keep the flaps of the bag open wide so he can watch while you look for it. Being polite in this situation can go a long way.
Even after you’ve followed all these steps, if you’re still given a ticket or charged with something that you think is unfair, do not argue with the officer. His job is just to enforce the law and arguing with him will get you nowhere – expect possibly more charges. Keep your mouth shut and wait until the appropriate setting to argue your case: In a courtroom with your lawyer by your side. Arguing in the heat of the moment might result in self-incrimination, and remember the officer will be giving his official statement about the case, so anything you say can and will be used against you.
Also remember your rights. Refusing to agree to a vehicle search does not imply guilt; it implies a knowledge of your constitutional rights. Also, signing a citation does not imply guilt; it is just verification that you received it and will either pay it or contest it. Should you contest it, contact my office sooner rather than later so we can build your defense strategy.