The Steps to Take If You Are Pulled Over in Vegas
Once you see a police cruiser with its lights and sirens on behind you, you should take the following steps to help yourself and the officer through a safe, efficient traffic stop:
- Pull over. You should pull over as far as possible to the right side of the road quickly, but safely. Be sure to use your indicator when pulling over, and then activate your hazard lights to let the officer know that you’ve seen them and are pulling over. If possible, try to pull over to a place with a wide shoulder that is well-lit (if you are pulled over at night) so that the officer can be better protected against other traffic. If you have to drive a short distance to find a safe place to pull over, be sure to drive slowly (but not so slowly as to create a traffic hazard) so that the officer recognizes that you aren’t trying to get away.
- Stay in the car. You should remain in your vehicle with the engine turned off. Turn down or turn off any music so that you can clearly communicate with the officer. Roll down your driver’s side window, and if it’s dark, turn on your map or dome lights so the officer can see what you are doing inside the vehicle. You should also leave your seat belt on until the officer comes up to your window. Otherwise, the officer may issue you a ticket for driving without a seat belt.
- Stay calm. Although being pulled over can be a nerve-racking experience for any individual, unless you have done something criminal (have drugs in the car, are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs), you should have nothing to worry about. In the worst case, you will receive a ticket and have to pay a fine.
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Keep your hands where the officer can see them. If you need to retrieve your vehicle registration or insurance information from your wallet or from the glove box or center console, wait until the officer asks you for the documents. If you have to go into a compartment or a bag to retrieve documents, it also helps to let the officer know where you will be reaching.
- If you have a gun in the vehicle, let the officer know. Some concealed carry laws require gun owners to inform an officer if they are armed during a traffic stop. Even if you don’t have an obligation to inform the officer, it can help to put the officer at ease if you volunteer the fact that you are armed. Concealing the fact that you are armed can quickly make an officer nervous about your intentions.
- Be civil. Even if you plan on fighting the ticket, just give short, to-the-point responses to the officer’s questions. You don’t have to admit fault. If the officer asks you, “Do you know why I stopped you?” it’s okay to simply respond with “No” or “I don’t know.” However, if you’ve been stopped for a relatively minor traffic infraction (like running a stop sign) and no one was placed in any danger, apologizing for your mistake and being polite to the officer might convince him or her to let you off with a warning. You should also sign a citation when asked by the officer. Doing so isn’t an admission of guilt. It simply indicates that you acknowledge receiving the documents and that you will either pay the fine or show up to court on an assigned date.
What NOT to Do When Pulled Over by the Police
If you have been pulled over by the police, there are some actions you should definitely avoid during a traffic stop:
- Avoid veering off to the side of the road. When you pull over, you should do so quickly, but safely. Be sure to use your indicators and hazard lights. Stopping or veering quickly can cause an accident with the officer pulling you over or with someone else on the road.
- Don’t exit your vehicle. If you get out of your vehicle after stopping, the officer may suspect that you may become aggressive or that you are trying to hide something in your vehicle. The office may suspect that you are about to flee. However, if the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you are legally required to do so.
- Avoid sudden movements. Even though you may be trying to expedite the traffic stop by gathering your vehicle registration and insurance documents, don’t reach around the inside of your vehicle while the officer is walking up. He or she may believe that you are trying to hide incriminating evidence or are reaching for a weapon. Wait until the officer asks you for documents, and when you reach for them, do so deliberately and advise the officer of each of your movements.
- Don’t argue with the officer. The side of the road is not the place to contest a ticket. If the officer wants to issue you a citation, arguing with the officer is not likely to change their mind. Although you can ask the officer why you are being stopped or what you are being ticketed for, avoid doing so in a combative manner. You also don’t need to inform the officer that you plan on contesting the ticket. Finally, if you believe you are being treated in an improper or unprofessional manner, don’t argue with the officer about it. You can later file a complaint with the police department.
How Long Can a Police Officer Wait to Pull You Over?
As long as an officer has personal knowledge or information to give them probable cause to believe that you have committed a traffic violation or a crime, the officer can wait as long as they want to pull you over, provided you and the officer are still within the officer’s territorial jurisdiction.
What Is the Safest Way to Pull Over on the Highway?
If you are stopped by the police on the highway, the safest way to pull over (to protect yourself, the officer, and other motorists on the road) involves turning on your hazards to let the officer know that you’re aware you are being pulled over, using your turn signals to indicate lane changes, and pulling over at the widest part of a shoulder, so that the officer has sufficient room between themselves and highway traffic.
What Are My Rights in a Traffic Stop?
If you’ve been subjected to a traffic stop, you have the right to:
- Remain silent. Although you are required to identify yourself to police and to provide your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to the officers, you do not have to answer any questions about what you were doing before you were pulled over or make any admissions of fault or guilt.
- Refuse consent to a search. If the police ask to search your vehicle or containers inside your vehicle, you do not have to consent to a search. However, the police may have legal grounds to conduct a search without your consent, such as if they see contraband in plain view in your vehicle or following a canine sniff.
- Know why you are being stopped, ticketed, and/or arrested. You have the right to ask the officer why you were stopped. If you are ticketed or arrested, you have the right to know what traffic offense or criminal violation you are being cited or arrested for.
- Speak with an attorney if you are being detained or arrested. If you are detained or arrested, and the police wish to question you, you can contact and speak with an attorney before answering the police’s questions.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer After Being Pulled Over in Las Vegas?
If you have been pulled over by the police in Las Vegas, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible if you have been arrested, or if you plan on contesting a citation you received for a traffic violation. If you were ticketed, you may only have a matter of weeks before you must appear in court for a hearing. If you are arrested for a crime, it may only be a matter of a few hours before you are arraigned.
In any case, the Las Vegas attorneys of Adras & Altig can get to work quickly on your case to help you address your traffic citation or criminal charges. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers to discuss your case.