Posted on: August 15, 2016

“What am I supposed to do if I am pulled over by the police?”

The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) has received multiple inquiries about what a person is supposed to do if they are pulled over by the police.

Last year Arizona Central published an article”Police traffic stops: The do's, don'ts and musts”. In the article they consulted with a local Police Department and a criminal defense attorney. Below are some key points from this article.
• You pull over when the lights come on as quickly and safely as possible. Then roll down your window and put your hands on the steering wheel.
• You have to provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Advise the officer of where these items are located and let them know you are going to reach for them. Then proceed to move slowly and always make sure your hands and actions are visible to the officer.
• Keep in mind the officer does not have to inform you of why they pulled you over at this time.
• If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, then you are required to exit the vehicle. This applies to passengers as well. While exiting the vehicle, do it slow enough that the officer can clearly observe your movements and actions. DO NOT exit the vehicle unless asked to do so. This will instantly make the officer nervous and put them on alert.
• If an officer gets you out of the vehicle you have to remain there because you are detained.
• When asked questions by the officer, be polite in your responses, even if you feel the officer is not being polite to you. You have the power to make a complaint against the officer’s conduct at another time, but on the side of the road is not the time.
• Don’t argue with the officer, it will not change anything and most likely will escalate the situation. You can make your arguments in court if you think you were treated unfairly or wrongly charged.
• In regards to what questions you have to answer when asked by the officer this is the advice from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona: "You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud." In Arizona, the driver must provide evidence of their identity that includes their full name, date of birth, address as well as other basic identifying information.
• While you do not have to submit to a search, if an officer feels they have probable cause, they can search the vehicle. If you feel the search or arrest is unlawful, you can’t resist. You can argue in court the legality of the search and arrest.
• If you have a gun, tell the officer you have it and where it is- but DO NOT reach for it to show them and tell them while both hands remain on the steering wheel.
• If the officer asks you about a firearm, you have to answer truthfully. If the officer says, 'I want to take the firearm,' you have to let them take the firearm.
• If the officer hands you a complaint, you should always sign it. These complaints include traffic tickets and criminal offenses like DUIs, and an officer can have reason to arrest you if you don't sign it. A citation or ticket is only a promise to appear in court or pay a fine later. It's not an admission of guilt. Only a jury or judge in court can determine your guilt if you contest the charges.
• Ask the officer if and when you are free to leave. Always ask the officer if you are not sure that you can leave.
If you feel you have been mistreated or wrongly ticketed, charged, detained or generally treated unfairly you have a right to be heard and your accusations to be investigated. But on a traffic stop on the side of the road it is not the time to do this.

In the AZ Central article, the consulting police department offered this advice: “The officer's job is to protect the public. That means the officer has to assess whether you are a threat and to stop you in a way that doesn't endanger you, other motorists or the officer. The officer has to take in your movements, those of any passengers, your state of mind, the flow of traffic, run your plates and ID, communicate the location of the stop as well as what's happening, and keep apprised of radio traffic that may or may not involve you. There are a lot of moving parts."

You can view the entire article on azcentral.com: http://azc.cc/1Scaaex.

Like you, the officer just wants to go home to their family at the end of the day. If you have questions about this article, or any public safety topic, please contact the Community Resource Coordinator at (480) 474-5442 or scarney@ajcity.net.

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