When operating a motor vehicle
Q. When can a police officer pull me over?
A. A police officer can pull you over for any traffic violation, no matter how minor. However, police cannot pull you over because of your age, race, or the type of car that you drive.
Q. What to do when you see flashing police lights/hear police siren?
A. Let the police officer know that you understand that you are being pulled over and are complying. Be quick but safe and pull over as far to the right shoulder as possible. Do not forget to use your signals.
Q. What to do once you are stopped?
A. Roll down your window, turn off your car’s engine and put your hands on the steering wheel. If it is night time, turn on your interior light.
Q. Should I reach for documentation before an officer asks?
A. No! Officer’s receive training to detect drivers reaching for hidden items. It is possible for officers to misinterpret your actions. You might be reaching for your insurance papers, but for all the officer knows, you’re reaching for a gun.
Q. How do I know I that got pulled over by a real cop?
A. If you think the officer is not a real police officer (i.e. you got pulled over by an unmarked vehicle), politely ask for the officer’s identification and badge number. If you still do not trust him/her, you can ask that officer to call a supervisor to the scene or request to follow the officer to the nearest police station.
Q. Can a police officer search my car without any reason?
A. No. In order to search your car, the police officer needs to have a probable cause (a reasonable basis to believe that you or your passengers are involved in criminal activity). However, keep in mind that it is easy to give the officer a valid reason to search your car if you are not being careful.
Q. When can a police officer search my car?
A. A police officer may search your car if:
- The officer detects any suspicious movements. For example, if you are caught trying to hide or throw something out of the window or hunching down in your seat which makes it look you you are trying to hide something under the seat.
- The officer believes that you’re armed, dangerous or involved in criminal activity.
- The officer may ask to inspect anything in plain view inside of your car. If he/she detects anything suspicious such as open beer cans, wine bottles or drugs, the officer may search your car.
- You or a passenger in your car gets arrested.