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Seven Things to Know if You Get Stopped by a Police Officer

Getting stopped by the police can be scary, even if you are doing nothing wrong. And even if you are doing nothing wrong, you could incriminate yourself without intending to do so. Remember, anything you say to the police can and will be used against you. There’s a reason that if you are arrested the police are required to read you your Miranda rights. You should keep those in the back of your mind anytime the police pull you over.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

Keeping all of this in mind, if you are pulled over by the police, here are 7 things to do.

  1. Be polite and respectful. This does not mean doing anything the officer asks and giving consent. It simply means be polite and respectful. You can be polite and respectful in declining consent. In the same vein, do not get into an argument with an officer. You could accidentally say something incriminating or put yourself in a dangerous situation.

  2. Stay calm and in control. Officers are listening to your words, looking at your body language, etc.

  3. Keep your hands where police can see them. You may know that you are an upstanding citizen and would never be considered dangerous – but a police officer who does not know anything about you may not know that.

  4. Do not touch the police officer. Assaulting a police officer is much more serious than an average assault charge. Go back to number 2 – stay calm and in control.

  5. Do not make statements about the incident. You may think you can explain the situation away. But remember, statements you say can be used against you. Statements can be taken out of context, misunderstood or misconstrued. Wait to make statements until you have spoken with your attorney.

  6. If arrested, immediately ask for an attorney. And once you have done so, say nothing until you have spoken with your attorney.

  7. Write everything down. Being stopped by the police can be traumatic and while it may seem clear in your head at the time, it may quickly become hard to remember details. As soon as possible, write down exactly what happened, including details such as officers’ names and badge numbers.

If you’ve been stopped by the police or arrested, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected and you do not accidentally incriminate yourself for things you have not done.

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  • Washington Association for Justice
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
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  • Washington State Bar Association
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