Even if you are only speeding or forget to use your turn signal, there are important guidelines to remember when getting pulled over by police. While these tips do also apply to routine traffic stops, they are especially helpful if the officer is going to smell marijuana when he or she gets to your window.
The most important thing to remember when being pulled over, for any reason, is to remain calm. Also, be polite and speak respectfully to the officer. Being calm, polite and respectful will make a big difference with how the officer reads you, and subsequently treats you. Law enforcement officers are trained to look for signs of nervousness, and they will become suspicious if yours are severe.
As soon as you see the flashing lights in the rearview mirror, activate the turn signal, and slow down to let the officer know you are pulling over. It is acceptable to drive a little farther down the road if it means you will get to a parking lot where the officer is safer exiting the squad car.
Once your vehicle is pulled over, roll both of the front windows down far enough to hand your license and registration through. Depending on where you are when you pull over, it is possible that the officer may approach the passenger side window. Turn the car off, put the keys in your pocket, and place your hands on the steering wheel. This shows the officer that you have nothing in your hands.
Keep still with your hands on the wheel until the officer is at your window to ask for your license and registration. Before you start to move, communicate to the officer where the items are located, and that you’re going to move your hands to retrieve them. Move slowly.
There is a script to follow when speaking to officers if your vehicle smells like marijuana, according to Pot Brothers at Law, Craig and Marc Wasserman. At this time, it is important not to incriminate yourself, or as the Pot Brothers at Law put it, “Shut the f*ck up.”
When the officer asks, “Do you know why i pulled you over?” Avoid saying yes or no. Only reply with the question, “Why did you pull me over?” Even if you know you were speeding or that your headlight is out, do not admit to it. It is possible that the officer will ask this question before asking for your license and registration. Be prepared for it to go either way.
According to the Pot Brothers at Law, the conversation flows as follows:
Officer: “Do you know how fast you were going?”
You: “Why’d you pull me over?”
Officer: “You were speeding. What’s that smell?”
You: “I’m not discussing my day.”
Officer: “I don’t care what you’re discussing. I know that smell. Where are the drugs?”
You: “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?”
Officer: “You’re being detained. Get out of the car.”
You: “I invoke my fifth amendment rights.”
Shut Your Mouth
Decline to make any further comments. Cooperate by doing what the cops ask, whether it’s to put your hands behind your back or get on the ground, but do not say anything other than what is in the script. When they ask questions, repeat, “I am not discussing my day.” Answering questions is not cooperating. Remain calm and polite.
It is possible that you will be searched and arrested, even if you follow these guidelines perfectly. Following the script only means not incriminating yourself, and allows your defense attorney a greater chance of getting the charges dropped or reduced.
Know your state laws. In california, a field sobriety test on the side of the road is voluntary. You don’t have to do it. Once they take you to the station, however, you must agree to a blood, urine or breath test, or they can automatically take your license away for a year.
Take slow, deep breaths as soon as you see the police lights in the rearview mirror because a calm demeanor will help to put the officer at ease. If you are sweating, breathing heavily, avoiding eye contact, or showing any other signs of severe nervousness, the officer will become suspicious.
Keep your license and registration somewhere that is easily accessible, like the sun visor or center console. Don’t put them in the same place as something you don’t want the officer to see or smell.
Store cannabis in the trunk while you’re driving in legal states. In the event of a search, this shows the officer that you were not consuming behind the wheel.
Keep air sanitizing spray in the car. Make sure it is the kind that eliminates odors, not the kind that just covers them up.
Always remain calm, be polite, and speak respectfully to law enforcement, even if they are being aggressive.
Do what the officers tell you to do, no matter what.
Do not incriminate yourself.