Man being pulled over by police

19 Sep Know Your Rights When Stopped By The Police

Most people have at least one encounter with a police officer in their life. This could be a routine check at an event, being pulled over while driving, or any other number of situations. The most important thing to remember, however, is to stay calm. You don’t want to escalate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath and don’t show any hostility.

Today, we’ll go over some helpful info on what to do when you’re stopped by police. First, however, let’s start with some basics.

The Fourth Amendment

According to Congress.gov, the 4th amendment protects…

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

What Does This Mean, However? 

In short, this protects people from random and unreasonable searches. For example, a police officer should not break into your home in the middle of the night without a warrant. 

There are some cases when police officers can enter without a warrant, but these have strict requirements. For example, if they’re actively pursuing a suspected felon and the felon runs into your home, that might be considered an exception. Police can also enter a home if invited in. But remember, you don’t have to give your consent; it’s your choice. If in doubt, always call a lawyer to ask.

What To Expect

Now that we’ve explained the 4th amendment, let’s talk about some situations that are likely to arise. It’s important to be prepared to deal with stressful events so that you can stay calm when a situation like this arises.

Stopped In Public

A police officer could try to stop you in public. In this case, know that you always have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to tell the police where you were going, what you were doing, or where you live. Please note that in some states, you might be required to identify yourself.

Pulled over In a Vehicle

Getting pulled over while driving is perhaps one of the most common ways to interact with a police officer in the US. Almost everyone has that heart-stopping experience at least once in their lives. 

If you do see a police car flash its lights behind you, don’t worry quite yet. Often, a police officer might even pull you over just to remind you to turn your lights on.

According to AutoinsuranceEZ, vehicle defects are the number two most common reason for traffic stops. This might include any number of things, such as broken tail lights, a problem with your blinkers, or even defective breaks.

The number one reason for a traffic stop in the US, however, remains speeding.

Regardless of the situation, if a police officer has signaled to pull you over, do so as soon as possible. Find a safe place to stop and pull over with your blinkers on. Don’t get out of your car. The officer will come over, so you don’t need to move anywhere. Leave your hands somewhere visible, and don’t make any rash or aggressive movements. The police officer will most likely ask for ID and proof of insurance. Do show those.

Police Misconduct

Unfortunately, police officers do occasionally act inappropriately when performing their duties. Know that this is not right, and you can always seek legal advice after experiencing something that you believe is police misconduct.

To start with, let’s talk about what police misconduct is. Generally speaking, it’s an illegal or inappropriate action taken by a police officer while conducting their duties. This can include a variety of actions, such as police brutality, rape, harassment, and much more.

Here are a few examples of police misconduct in recent years:

Walter Scott

On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott was shot in the back while attempting to flee.

Leading up to the shooting, officer Michael Slager had pulled Scott over for a broken brake light. Scott left his vehicle and fled soon after. The officer gave chase on foot, eventually catching up with Scott. Slager then proceeded to fire his taser. When the taser failed to bring Scott down, the police officer began firing his gun. 

The police officer involved was ultimately charged and convicted for the killing of Walter Scott. This terrible event shows an unfortunate case of misuse of power and police misconduct.

Rodney King

The Rodney King riots went down as a cornerstone of the civil rights movement in the US. The event leading up to the riots was a brutal expression of police misconduct and misuse of power.

In March 1991, police officers gave chase to Rodney King. When the police finally stopped him, they ordered him out of his vehicle. Four police officers then proceeded to brutally beat the man. In the meantime, over a dozen more cops stood by doing nothing to stop the assault. According to NPR, Rodney King suffered “skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage.”

This event exhibited a terrible misuse of police power and excessive use of force. If you or someone you loved has suffered physical violence at the hands of a police officer, report it ASAP. Give our office a call at (800) 969-4400 or fill out our online form to schedule your FREE consultation. Our attorneys can help guide you through the legal process and offer recommendations for next steps to take.

Philando Castile

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot dead in his car, with his girlfriend and their four-year-old daughter in the passenger seat.

Jeronimo Yanez was a police officer in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area. He’d pulled Castile over while driving and approached the driver’s window. According to CNN News, Yanez told Castile that his brake lights were out and asked for his driver’s license and insurance. At this point, Castile explained to the officer that he did have a weapon with him. Yanez should have calmly handled the situation. The police officer was in no immediate danger. Instead, however, Yanez fired seven shots into the car. Castile died of his wounds within minutes of the shooting.

Jeronimo Yanez was eventually acquitted of all charges. He was, however, fired from his position. The New York Times reported that the city settled with Castile’s family for “nearly $3 million”.

The Do’s Of Being Stopped By Police

  • Do stay calm.
  • Do keep your hands where they can be seen.
  • Do pull over if a police car has signaled for you to stop.
  • Do identify yourself (if it is required in your state).

The Don’ts Of Being Stopped By Police

  • Don’t run.
  • Don’t show any signs of violence or aggression.
  • Don’t speak any more than is necessary. You have the right to remain silent.
  • Don’t forget to call a lawyer as soon as possible if you are placed under arrest.

Personal Injury Lawyer In Philadelphia

Have you been the victim of a personal injury case? Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Here at the Cochran Firm Philadelphia office, we strive to serve our community. Not only do we work with personal injury cases, however, but we also fight for justice. 

We practice in the following areas:

  • Police Misconduct
  • Construction Accidents
  • Birth Injury
  • Car Accidents
  • Elder Abuse
  • Medical Malpractice

And much more…

The best part, however, is that our services are affordable to all members of our community. The Cochran Firm Philadelphia office offers legal services on a contingency fee basis. This means that we don’t get paid until you do. Instead of a flat upfront payment, our fees come out as a percentage of the final settlement amount.

We strive to offer not online top-notch legal advice but also empathy and a shoulder to lean on. We understand that legal battles can be a very difficult and stressful time. That’s why we make it our mission to treat every client as if they were family.

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