How do I avoid problems after being pulled over?
Seeing the flashing lights of a police car and hearing its siren behind you can be a frightening experience. Little good can come out of being pulled over. However, chances are that you will be pulled over at some point in your driving career. I know I have been. Here are a few things you can do to minimize the damage.
First, if you knows you are likely going to jail, perhaps because you have been drinking, or have a warrant or some other criminal issue, then this traffic stop should be about mitigation. Do not self-incriminate or make one’s case, post-arrest, worse. Don’t argue, resist, or become belligerent. Respectfully submit to being arrested.
CPL / Firearm Disclosure
If you are carrying a firearm pursuant to your valid Concealed Pistol License (CPL), the first words out of your mouth when the officer approaches should be something like this: “Officer, before we start, I need to let you know that I am a Concealed Pistol License holder, and I have a firearm in the vehicle.” Then, tell the officer specifically where the firearm is located, i.e. “on my right hip in a holster”, or “in the glove compartment”, or “under the front passenger’s seat”, etc. When carrying your firearm pursuant to a CPL, disclosure is mandatory pursuant to Michigan law. It will also be helpful in keeping everyone safe.
Remember, if a police officer that has the ability to let you off with a warning, they are much more likely to do so if you are safe, respectful and polite. This means pulling over in a safe area, one where the police officer can approach the vehicle without crossing into traffic. Sometimes, this means immediately pulling into a parking lot. Though, if one is not immediately available, pull over far enough to give the police officer room.
Also, if I am pulled over, I always roll all my windows down (even in the winter), turn off the car, and place my hands on the top of the steering wheel, palms up. I want the officer to realize that I am not a threat. I ask the officer for permission to roll the windows up and turn the vehicle back on if it’s cold outside and I want to restart the heater. Conveying an interest in keeping everyone safe, including yourself and the officer, can go a long way toward an officer favorably exercising discretion and giving you a break.
Next, remember that the interaction should be respectful. Do not make any quick movements. Do not reach for the glove compartment or middle console. Do not reach under the seat. Everyone in the car should keep their hands in full view of the police officer. Before reaching for the registration and proof of insurance (only after being asked to do so), always tell the officer where you are going to reach before doing so. Respect the fact that traffic-violation interactions can be just as anxiety inducing for the officer as it is for the motorist. After all, the officer does not know that you are a safe, respectful individual. Officers will assume the worst, unless you demonstrate otherwise.
As appropriate, say, “thank you,” “please,” “sir,” “ma’am,” etc. Have a polite, not sarcastic tone. When the driver or passenger is asked to identify themselves, do so. When the driver is asked for their car insurance, vehicle registration and driver’s license, give it to the police officer – and tell the officer where you are going to retrieve them from inside the vehicle.
Do not lie, but also do not self-incriminate
Troy, Michigan, traffic interactions are often used as a way for police to catch non-traffic related offenses. As such, the police officer will pepper everyone in the car with questions. It is perfectly acceptable to remain silent. It is also perfectly acceptable to invoke the right to remain silent, or ask for a lawyer. Often, you are better off saying nothing, or politely refusing to answer questions, than you are lying. However, please note that Michigan is an implied consent state, so if one refuses a breath or other blood alcohol test, there will be adverse consequences.