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What should you do if you are stopped by the police?

It's rarely expected. You find yourself driving along, minding your own business, when suddenly, you see bright, flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. You are shocked when the light approach and instead of passing your vehicle, they pull in behind your vehicle. Why are they pulling you over and what should you do?

You should immediately pull over as soon as there is a safe location. If you continue to drive, the officer could charge you with some variation on evading an arrest, in addition to the offense they may claim triggered the stop. You should stop your vehicle, remain seated and place your hands on the steering wheel. Don't reach for any papers until you are asked by the officer, as furtive movements in your vehicle could cause the officer to escalate the situation.

Do not say more than you need to. This is important. Always be polite, but never say more than you must. If the officer asks, "Do you know why I have stopped you," do not say yes, as that provides an admission of guilt.

The other important thing to remember is you do not have to consent to a search. If the officer believes they have probable cause to arrest you, they do not need to ask permission. If they are asking for permission to search your person or vehicle, politely answer, no.

If they did not have probable cause and they search without your permission, if an illegal substance is found, your attorney may have a chance of suppressing the evidence and keeping it out of a trial. If you give them consent, it becomes virtually certain that it will be used against you during a trial.

If you are arrested, you should ask to speak with an attorney. Then, remain silent. By saying anything after that, you can only compromise your defense.

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