Imagine you are driving down the road, you have done nothing wrong, and all of a sudden you see lights behind you. What do you do? What do you say? How do you act?
Hi, I am Jeff Hampton with the Hampton Law Firm. Thanks for joining us here today. On today’s version of what we are doing on my YouTube channel, I am going to spend a little bit of time going through a step-by-step approach about how to protect yourself if you end up getting pulled over by a police officer during a traffic stop. By the way, if you wait around till the end of this video, I will also provide you with a free eBook on what to do if you have been charged with a crime in Texas.
Okay, so let us start off. Police officer walks up, pulls you over, and walks up to the side of your car, and you roll down your window. First of all, what should you say when the police stop your car? Let us talk about what to say now. Basic advice is this: be ready with your insurance and your driver’s license. Generally speaking, you should be nice and cordial with the officer. If you are nice and not irritated with the officer, there is a much better chance you are going to be released quickly and you will escape any possibility of further investigation, keeping you on the side of the road for a long period of time.
Now, what if the officer starts speaking to you but he is not really kind to you? What if the officer starts acting rude? Well, let me just say this because we have seen this happen so many times: if an officer starts raising his voice at you, the worst thing for you to do is to raise your voice back at him. It is never a good idea to match aggression with aggression, so the louder the officer is with you, the calmer you should remain.
Remember, you are on video, the calmer you are, the better you will look, and the more unprofessional the officer will look if he is being rude to you. The goal here is to end the encounter, to end the traffic stop, for you to be able to go on your way. Being respectful and compliant with basic requests will go a long way. That being said, never waive your rights. It does not mean you have to waive your rights. You can still be respectful, you can still be somewhat compliant, but it does not mean you have to waive your rights when you are dealing with a police officer.
So, what if the officer begins to ask you questions? Here is the next step, what do you start thinking about? Well, remember, this is the investigative phase of a case, and everything that you say at this point in time can and will be used against you. The officer is not required to mirandize you at this stage of the game. They do not have to read your Miranda rights, and you do not have to affirmatively waive those rights.
Now let me tell you a little bit about Miranda rights. We all know what it is; you have the right to remain silent, right to an attorney, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. They do not have to read those rights to you unless a couple of things are in place. Number one, you have to be in custody, you must be detained, and that means not free to leave. Well, the officer is going to characterize just a traffic stop as he is just talking to you, and there is no detention, and you have not been placed under arrest, and that is what the law says too.
The second thing is he has to be interrogating you, so if you start offering a bunch of information, this could create a problem for you. Also, even if you are under arrest and he is not asking you questions without them asking you questions, you just volunteer information, all of that can be used against you in court, every bit of it. So please understand, at this stage of the game, everything you say can create a basis for probable cause to arrest you.
Now, providing basic answers to questions, that is fine, that’s not a big deal, but beware direct questions. We see this happen sometimes from police officers; they will ask you a direct question demanding a yes or no answer, but the question is provided in a way that makes it seem like you are admitting to something. Regardless of whether you say yes or no, you do not have to answer yes or no questions. You are not being cross-examined in a courtroom; you can provide exactly the answer you want to provide to that officer.
For example, if you do admit to drinking in a DWI, you are likely going to be cited or go to jail. So, there are certain things that if you just start admitting to, it will be used against you; they are not going to just give you credit for it, all right? So, number one, what to say.
Number two, how to act when the police stops your car? What if the officer asks you to get out of the car? Well, option number one, and we see this happen sometimes, option number one is to get very upset and demand a justification as to why. Now I just want you to understand, if you do this, the officer is very likely to escalate the encounter. The police are not going to be happy with that response, so what they will likely do is look for any reason to arrest or cite you. In fact, if you raise your voice loud enough or you start refusing to step out of the car after the officer starts demanding that you do that, we’ve seen officers do this many times, where they’ll say, “Okay, you’re resisting my arrest, you’re resisting being detained, or you’re trying to evade arrest.” Now, suddenly, they start looking for any reason to say you are not being compliant, so now I have a separate probable cause to force you out of your car and place you under arrest at this point.
I have seen this happen too, where they go to grab you out of the car, and you pull back. That is either resisting or you inadvertently brush across them, and they think you have now assaulted a public servant. These are things to be aware of, that as the emotion escalates, you dramatically increase the probability of the officer finding a reason to arrest you.
Now, option number two is to be respectful and comply with the requirement to get out of the car, but also respectfully say that you are happy to answer any questions that the officer has, as long as your attorney is present. Now, I am going to tell you what the officer is probably going to tell you. The officer is likely to say, “Well, you don’t have the right to an attorney right now.” But you do not know what your rights are, you have no idea, and there is nothing wrong with a United States citizen wanting to make sure they speak to an attorney before they make any other decisions. You can be somewhat compliant with the request but not have to get into a lot of detail as far as any of the other questions that are coming out.
Now, what if the officer says that you do not have that right to an attorney, and like I have mentioned already, doing that, it is important to rely upon the fact that you just know you have constitutional rights and you need advice. But then what if the officer asks you to search your car because it is the next step? What if an officer says, “Well, listen, you’re out of the car now, I need to search your vehicle.” Two options, we are going to go through each one of them.
Option one is to allow the search, and I will just say this: if there is nothing at all that you are concerned about in your vehicle, you can always allow the officer to search your car. But beware, there is a maxim under the law that says consent cures all. So, if you give consent to a police officer to search your car, the moment you consent, the officer will search everything, they will search you, they will search your car, and you have to be careful because at that moment, things can be twisted and turned and used against you.
You do not, and this is so important to understand, you do not get extra credit because you consented to a search. I have had many clients that have told me, “But I was compliant, I consented to it, shouldn’t I get credit for that?” No, no, the officer wants you to consent, that is their hope is that you do that, and it does not make it any better for you. It just allows them to run right over you.
Now let us talk about option number two. You can exercise your constitutional right to deny the search. Okay, what if you say, “No, I don’t give you consent to search my vehicle”? Officers must then have probable cause to execute a search of your vehicle. If they have to get a warrant, then they can get a warrant, and they will have to have a judge sign off on it. That will take an inordinate amount of time.
We see this happen a lot in drug cases where they will pull somebody over, and they will say, “I need to search your car.” The client will say, “No, I’m not going to let you search my vehicle.” They will say, “Okay, well, they don’t have any probable cause, so what do they do? They call for a drug dog.” But what if it takes the drug dog three or four hours to show up because the drug dogs are not available? Well, now there’s Supreme Court law out there that says that is too long of a time, and as a result of that, even if they bring a drug dog out there and find something, because the client did not consent to the search, the entire search is thrown out. That is just one example of that. So, if they do not have a search warrant, then they are going to have to see something, maybe drugs in plain view, they are going to have to see something else that is there that will give them the independent probable cause to be able to search your vehicle.
What if the police go ahead and search for it anyway? Well, if they search your vehicle anyway without probable cause, your attorney, your criminal attorney, can file a motion to suppress prior to trial that can be presented to a judge, and if that evidence was illegally obtained, it is very possible your entire case would be thrown out because under the Fourth Amendment, the case law that exists under Texas and U.S. law, that is called the fruit of the poisonous tree. That means anything obtained after a bad traffic stop or a bad search, all of that must be thrown out, not admissible in court.
Okay, finally, what if you are arrested? Oh, and this is so important, most important, if they tell you, “Sir, put your hands behind your back, you’re under arrest,” the worst thing you could do is run. The worst thing you could do is resist. We have had clients that are 100% innocent of what they are being arrested for, but now they have a separate charge that can independently be prosecuted because they did not consent to the arrest. Okay, very important, nobody likes the idea of being wrongfully or illegally arrested at all, but you must not run.
It is very important, you’ll make your situation 10 times worse if you choose to do so. And why ask why? One of the things you can do is, “Why am I being arrested? What is it that I have done wrong?” Do not fall into the trap of talking the entire time. Do not fall into the trap of believing that you can talk the police officer out of arresting you and letting you go.
The best thing you can do in a situation like that is to remain calm, remain collected, and just get through the process so that you will get in and out of jail if they are going to book you in. And remember, you are being recorded the entire time, so everything you say and your reactions and the way that you look, the way you appear on this video, all of that could be available to be used in a courtroom if your case went to trial, and everything you say can be used against you.
So, after your arrest, my general advice on this, you need to remain quiet, compliant, and just make sure you are able to book out of jail, okay? Then guess what, you hire a lawyer and fight your criminal case. Now remember, this is general information for you to understand what would happen in a situation if it looked like you were under a situation where a police officer was pulling you over, and it leads to all this.
I hope this has been some assistance to you if maybe you or a loved one are facing a crime, a charge in the North Texas area. I want to invite you to call the number above my screen right now and schedule a free case analysis and a free consultation. We will be happy to help you with your case. I also promised you a free eBook, “What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Crime in Texas.” All you have to do is click the link down below; we will be happy to send that free eBook over to you. I hope you have enjoyed this video. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and I will send you more great content just like this. Thanks.