Everybody dreads looking into their review mirror and seeing those flashing blue lights. Rarely do we have time to stop everything we are doing and wait for our driving records to be reviewed and a ticket handed to us. Most of us also don’t want to flush a few hours and a few hundred dollars down the drain. So, while these steps likely won’t get you out of a ticket, they will likely make the interaction much easier.
Officers are trained not to activate their blue lights unless there is a safe place for you to stop. Understand they are getting out of the car and running the risk of being hit by a moving car on the roadway, so they aren’t going to put themselves in any more risk than need be. Once you notice the lights or siren, pull over. If there is only a small shoulder, pull over as far as you can. If there is a parking lot within 100 feet, pull into the parking lot. Once stopped, place the car in park and turn the car off. While I understand during the winter and summer people want to run the A/C or heater, officers are concerned about the likelihood that the driver might try to flee and the potential of them getting ran over. After shutting the car off, reach for your driver’s license and registration, then return your hands to somewhere easily visible, likely the steering wheel.
Once the officer approaches, do not make any admissions of guilt. If the officer asks “do you know why I pulled you over” you do not have to answer with “yes, I was ….”. It is perfectly acceptable to say no I don’t. The same if he asks if you know how fast you were going. Now, in North Carolina, if you have a concealed carry permit and the firearm is in the car, it is imperative for you to inform the officer of such. Chances are they have looked at your driving history, and it shows that if a CCW has been issued. Provide the necessary documents to the officer and await for them to comeback. I will explain later in detail why you should not argue with them even if you are right.
In the event the officer asks you to step out of the car, do so. It is understandable that people generally don’t want to do this, but in North Carolina, if a person fails to obey the officer they can potentially face of failure to obey law enforcement or a resisting, delay or obstructing (RDO) a police officer charge. In the event, you are arrested, do not resist, even if you know you should not be arrested. If you struggle and end up hitting an officer, charges can include RDO and assault on an officer which is an A1 misdemeanor (the highest misdemeanor in NC).
Once the officer allows you to leave, or worst case scenario released from the detention facility, call an attorney. An attorney can request dash and body cam footage. A dash cam stores and records the audio and video from thirty (30) seconds before the officer activated the emergency lights. That means, if the officer claims you didn’t stop at a stop sign or were swerving, the footage should show the actual event. If the footage shows the officer is wrong, a good attorney can get the charges thrown out.
There are two major reasons why the necessary behavior was put the way it is. First, while I have never been a law enforcement officer, while in the military I have done roadside check points on deployments. The more nervous the driver acts, the more they move in the car, the more combative/argumentative they are, the more suspicious the officer will become. This will change how they interact with the driver and passengers in the car. In North Carolina, there is a comments block on the ticket that is written. Often, this section is blank when the driver is handed the ticket. When the District Attorney sees the ticket, there are comments in that block. If the comments say, driver was not polite and cooperative, driver was argumentative, or other negative comments, some DA’s will offer reductions and pleas based off those comments.
We understand that it is a difficult situation when you feel as if you are being wronged by a police officer. The best thing you can do is be compliant and contact an attorney afterwards. Dash and body can will show if they were wrong or not. However, being non-complaint can create additional legal troubles. We are here to help you if you have found yourself in this situation. Contact us for a free consultation at 919-591-2240.