What to do if Stopped by Police

Posted by James Ferguson | Sep 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

Many people are unclear as to their rights or what they should or shouldn't do if they are ever stopped by the police.  So in an effort to provide citizens with an answer to that question, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you see those flashing blue lights.

1. Always be polite

Police have great discretion when it comes to how a traffic stop will go.  I cannot tell the number of people including myself who have been let off with a warning simply because we were polite and respectful.  In those instances where the officer is rude, most people's reaction is to be rude right back but that usually escalates to a situation where you earn that citation or you are escorted to jail.  With the number of dash and body cameras out there these days, pretty much everything is caught on tape.  Think how persuasive a video will be if you are the essential Mr./Mrs. Manners while Officer Friendly acts like a real jerk.

2. The Officer is not your friend

While it is their job to protect us, it is also their job to enforce the laws.  Police make stops because they already believe you have committed some crime.  From the point they walk up to your window, their primary concern is to gather evidence for the crime they believe you have committed or to investigate if other crimes such as DUI are occurring.  Be wary of promises of leniency if you just tell the truth.

3. You have to exercise your rights

In any interaction with police, you always have a right to remain silent.  The Supreme Court, however, has determined that you have to verbally exercise that right by informing officers of your intent to remain silent.  Just being silent is evidently not sufficient for the people in the black robes.  So if an officer asks you if you have been drinking that night, usually that means they already believe they know the answer so why help them gather the evidence to convict you.  Simply inform the officer when asked about alcohol or drug use that you intend to exercise your right to remain silent and then remain silent.

4. Tests are Voluntary

In the state of Mississippi, field sobriety tests and chemical tests (blood, breath or urine) are all voluntary.  Remember number 2 and repeat after me, "The Officer is not my friend."  Field sobriety and chemical tests have one purpose, to be used against you in court.  Why provide the state with the evidence to convict you if you don't have too.  Now there are administrative penalties for refusing a chemical test but an attorney can fight those as well, and by refusing, you give yourself and your attorney a better chance of keeping a DUI of your record.

5. Speak with an Attorney

You have the right to an attorney even on the most minor of charges.  Should you be stopped and given a citation or arrested for DUI or any other crime, speak with an attorney about the facts of your case.  It's your right, why not exercise it!

While the above tips are useful, they are by no means exhaustive.  Be smart and be safe.

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.

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