It happens to just about all of us, whether we are driving or walking, we get stopped by the police. The two situations present two very different scenarios to consider.
What if a police officer stops you while you’re walking down the street or sidewalk? The officer may think you are doing something illegal or violating the law. It is also possible a crime was committed in the area and the officer believes you can either help or that you fit the description of the assailant.
Don't run: Whatever the reason, the first best thing you can do is remain calm. Do not run. If you become agitated or confrontational the officer will likely become very suspicious.
When to ask and answer questions: Try to answer the officer’s questions as truthfully as you can but you are under no obligation to talk to the police officer. You can also ask questions of the officer such as why he or she is interested in talking you. The officer will probably ask for identification. If at any time you are concerned you could be implicated in a crime, tell the officer you are not interested in talking any longer, ask if you are under arrest, and/or state that you want to call your attorney.
What if a police officer stops you while you are driving? If you are driving a car and a police officer signals you to stop, you must pull over. Pull over safely and put your car in park. Stay in your car. Do not get out of your car unless the officer directs you do so.
Provide documents and ask why you were stopped: After the officer has approached your window, it is best to keep your hands on the steering wheel or where the officer can see them so as not to draw suspicion. The officer will ask for your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Police officers are trained to ask for your license first then provide an explanation for the stop. If the officer does not tell you why you were stopped, you can and should ask why. You will need to provide the requested documents to the officer. If you do not have any or all of the items: license, registration and proof of insurance, you will likely get a citation for not having them.
Some reasons for getting stopped include: A moving violation (such as running a red light, speeding or failing to stay in your lane), expired registration, equipment violation (such as a light out), or your vehicle could match the description of a vehicle that was involved in a crime.
At some point the officer may ask you and any passengers to step out of the car. Courts have upheld the officer’s right to make such a request. Passengers are not required to identify themselves but that can present problems.
You do not have to consent to a search: The officer may want to search you or your vehicle. You do not have to consent to a search. The officer has to be able to articulate a reason for wanting to conduct a search and must obtain a warrant – unless you consent, that is, but consenting is not usually advisable.
Invoke your right to a lawyer: If you are in this position and believe you could be implicated in a crime, you should not answer any questions or talk to the police. Invoke your right to call your lawyer.
If you were stopped by the police in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, or elsewhere in Michigan and have legal questions or want to consult with a criminal defense attorney, I welcome you to contact me at Lisa J. Peterson, PLLC online or call (734) 887-2334.