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What to do when a cop pulls you over for a traffic violation

Being pulled over by a cop can be an intimidating experience. Despite the frantic feelings you may have, it is important to remain calm and prevent the situation from escalating.

Consider the following tips when getting ready to speak with the police officer.

Pull over safely

While you may be in a hurry to obey the cop's flashing lights, you do not have to pull over until it is safe to do so.

Avoid violating any traffic laws in your attempt to pull over, such as unlawfully passing other drivers or recklessly changing lanes. Put your car in park before rolling down your window to speak with the cop.

    Do not admit fault

    Cops may not randomly pull you over without reason unless you have entered a sobriety checkpoint area. Otherwise, an officer should have had reasonable suspicion that you somehow violated the law.

    Do not admit to knowingly violating the law. It is acceptable to respectfully ask an officer what reason he or she has for making the traffic stop.

      Wait for police instructions

      Similarly, avoid reaching for your driver's license until you are told to do so. Reaching for your back pocket or your glove box before you've been prompted to could confuse the cop into thinking you were reaching for a weapon.

      If you are transporting a weapon

      Be sure you are in compliance with all laws concerning gun ownership, concealed carry, open carry, and transport of weapons in a motor vehicle.  Be sure to notify the officer immediately if you have a gun on your person or in your vehicle.

      Know when a cop can search your car

      Unless you are at a sobriety checkpoint, a policeman can search your car if he or she has reasonable suspicion that you have commited a crime or that could cause imminent danger.

      The police typically need permission in order to search your trunk.

      Take action against police misconduct afterwards

      If you believe an officer has mishandled the traffic stop, search or arrest, according to the law, you should still cooperate with the officer.

      Afterward, it's wise to consult an attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can help you understand your rights and fight for you when they've been violated.

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