June 2018 - You’ve Been Pulled Over, Now What?
Getting pulled over for a traffic stop isn’t pleasant for anyone. Take it from a former police officer. But there are steps drivers can take to make the situation as safe and trauma-free as possible.
New Jersey law states police officers must have “reasonable suspicion” to pull you over. This falls somewhere between a hunch and probable cause. Some activities that could create reasonable suspicion include:
- driving erratically;
- talking or texting on a cell phone;
- failing to signal appropriately.
What should you do if you are stopped? According to the NJ State Attorney General’s Office’s Safe Stop campaign, you should:
- Pull over as soon as you safely can. Remain in your car; exit the vehicle only if instructed to do so.
- Turn down your radio and, if it’s nighttime, turn on interior lights to give the officer better visibility. Open the driver’s window and any other tinted windows.
- Keep your hands visible. It’s a good idea to keep them on the steering wheel where they’re in plain sight. Remember, sudden movements can escalate the situation.
- Provide identification and driving credentials – license, registration and proof of insurance – when asked. You want to keep these items handy so you don’t have to fish for them. If you need to reach into a glove compartment or pocket, let the officer know before doing so.
- Be compliant. Listen. Follow instructions. Now is not the time to argue. If you have a problem with the way the traffic stop was conducted, you can file a complaint later. Being cooperative at the scene doesn’t waive your right to do this.
Most importantly, stay calm!