By Attorney George Lorenzo
Flashing blue lights and a loud siren are coming up behind you, an indication that the police officer wants you to stop the car. No matter what the reason, being pulled over can be a stressful situation that can escalate quickly if you don’t know what to do.
There are many reasons for a police officer to pull someone over, such as:
- Texting and driving
- Driving under the influence
- Running a red light
All of these are against the law and sufficient reason for a police officer to stop you.
But what do you do in this situation? What are your rights?
It’s normal to feel a little nervous when pulled over by a police or highway patrol officer but keeping calm is the most critical action you can take. Use your turn signal to indicate that you’re pulling over. Find a clear, level spot on the side of the road—preferably a parking lot with plenty of lighting if it’s nighttime—and park your car.
While you wait
As the police officer notes the make and model of your car, as well as your license plate, do these things:
- Turn off the radio (if it’s playing).
- Turn on the cabin lights (if nighttime).
- Open the window part way.
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel.
- Avoid making sudden movements when the officer comes to the window.
- Give the officer your full attention.
What you need
Typically, the officer will ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Calmly hand these over. If they’re out of reach, tell the officer where they are before reaching for them. (If there are any weapons in the car, calmly inform the officer that you have them and where they are located in the vehicle.)
If these are not readily available, politely inform the police officer. You will most likely receive a ticket for driving without any one of the documents requested, which the officer will explain when they hand the ticket to you and give further instructions.
If you believe the police officer has unfairly issued the ticket, don’t prolong the situation by arguing with them. There will be a date on the ticket or a number to call to schedule a date to go to court, and that’s where you’ll have the opportunity to explain what happened.
Driving under the influence (DUI)
Sometimes drivers are pulled over because they’re driving recklessly, speeding, or not staying within their own traffic lane. A police officer may believe that the driver is driving under the influence and pull them over.
If you’re pulled over for this reason, the officer may ask you to step out of the car and perform a series of basic movements, such as touching your nose or walking in a straight line. You may also be asked to take a breath test, which involves blowing into a plastic tube that measures the level of alcohol in your system.
The highest level of alcohol legally allowed in a driver’s system is 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Florida. If you exceed this number, the officer will issue you a DUI and possibly make an arrest. If you feel this is unfair, don’t struggle. You have the right to remain silent. When it’s time to make a phone call, contact an experienced Florida attorney who can help you make a case.
George Lorenzo has been practicing law for nearly 30 years. He is a co-founder of Lorenzo & Lorenzo, a Tampa, FL personal injury law firm, specializing in automobile crash and collision cases and more.