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What To Do If You Are Pulled Over by The Police

by Joshua Angel Lopez on Dec. 17, 2018

Criminal DUI-DWI Criminal Motor Vehicle  Traffic 

Summary: Each day police pull over thousands of drivers. Many drivers falsely believe that if they cooperate with the police, they will not get in trouble. This short article discusses what you should do if you are pulled over.

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may lawfully pull you over if he or she has reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime or traffic violation. If you are being pulled over by the police the first thing to do is to pull to the side of the road and stop. In Arizona, failure to stop when given a visual or audible signal is a class 2 misdemeanor. See ARS 28-1595; ARS 28-3168. 

Once pulled over, remain calm, roll down your window, begin recording on your cell phone, and place your hands on the steering wheel. The reason you want to record on your cell phone is if you are arrested or cited and your case is later taken to trial, you or your attorney can use the cell phone video as evidence in your favor as to what happened during the stop if there is a dispute. Many times if you and the police officer are the only witnesses, a judge or jury will side with the officer if there is a dispute as to the facts. You do not want the officer to perceive you as a threat. By rolling down your window, remaining calm, and putting your hands on the steering wheel, the officer is less likely to perceive you as a threat to his or her safety. 

The officer will likely request for your driver license, proof of insurance, and registration. It is a class 2 misdemeanor to not provide an officer your driver license under ARS 28-1595. It is a civil penalty to not provide an officer proof of insurance under ARS 28-4135. It is also a civil penalty to operate a vehicle without registration under ARS 28-2532. The officer may also ask you other questions such as:
  • Where are you going? 
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Do you know why I pulled you over?
You do not have to answer any of these questions and you should not admit to anything. You should tell the officer that you would like to remain silent and speak to an attorney. 

If the officer suspects that you are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she will likely request that you exit your vehicle and perform a serious of field sobriety tests or FSTs. Although you are required to exit your vehicle for officer safety upon request, you are not required to complete any of these tests. Regardless if you have been drinking or using drugs, it is best for you to politely refuse to consent to any tests. It is not your job to prove yourself innocent. It is a prosecutor's job to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The tests are designed for you to fail and for the officer to gather evidence against you to make an arrest based on probable cause. The tests are hard to pass even for someone who is completely sober. The officer may also ask you to complete a preliminary breath test or PBT. This is another type of FST that you are not required to do. Politely refuse to take the test.  

Finally, the officer may ask for your consent to search your car. Politely let the officer know that you do not consent to any searches. If the officer arrests you, he or she will read you an implied consent warning which states that he or she is requesting that you give consent to test your blood, breath, and/ or urine to determine your blood alcohol concentration or whether there are drugs in your system. Although you are not required to take the tests, if you refuse, your license will automatically be suspended and the officer may get a search warrant from a judge that allows the officer to take your blood by force.

If you have been cited or arrested, it is best to hire a skilled attorney to represent you. If you have additional questions, reach out to me, Joshua A. Lopez, Esq.by phone or text at (480) 630-0799 or email me at josh@lopezdefense.com. This is a short summary of some of the law. Reading this article does not establish an attorney client relationship.

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