Police Encounter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

The police encounter

Many people who end up in a police encounter do not understand the seriousness of their charges. Or they don’t understand the way the criminal justice system really works because they don’t have much experience with it.

Of course, nothing can take the place of professional legal representation when you are charged with a crime. However, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the negative consequences of a police encounter if you have one.

The Police Encounter When Stopped In Your Car

The average person will most likely only encounter police when pulled over for a traffic violation. Sometimes these types of situations escalate.

There are a few things you can keep in mind for when you are pulled over that will keep you from getting into more trouble, as well as what your rights are in this situation.

Stay Calm

If you are getting pulled over, you may have a guilty conscience about all your unpaid parking tickets or how bad of a fine you might have to pay or any number of things.

Getting pulled over isn’t fun for anyone. However, you must remain calm.

Pull over immediately, turn off your car, and put your hands on the wheel. Do not exit your vehicle. Turn on your dome lights. Don’t reach for your paperwork or anything else you think the officer may want until he or she requests that you do so.

In addition,

  • Always address the officer as “officer”.
  • Do not argue with, or act hostile to a police officer.
  • If you get a ticket, accept it without comment and move on.
  • If you get asked whether you knew how fast you were going, you can simply say “no officer.” It doesn’t mean you are lying, rather that you are invoking your 5th amendment right to remain silent.

Rather than stating that you know your rights, simply refuse to incriminate yourself. In fact, the less you say in this situation, the better. Anything you say can be used against you in court – if it comes to that – and don’t wait for an officer to inform you of your rights.

Refusing Search Requests

This is where it can get trickier for people – when police ask you and any passengers to step out of your vehicle.

Police must have a basis for suspecting you are armed in order to frisk the outside of your clothing. If an officer does frisk you, you may verbally state that you do not consent to the search. This does violate your 4th amendment rights (unless they have a reason).

However, don’t physically move or touch the officer in any way. This is a quick way to get tasered or beaten or receiving a felony charge for assaulting a police officer.

Things are not going to go your way if you resist this. Let it be known that you don’t consent to a search – verbally. In addition, tell yourself that any constitutional violations will have to be dealt with in court.

A police officer may also ask you a question like “do you mind if I have a look in your car?”

The answer to this should always be no.

Why? An officer will only ask if he needs your consent in order to conduct a search. The 4th amendment protects you against searches but it doesn’t mean the police have to “play fair.”

If an officer makes you feel as though you need to prove your innocence by consenting to a search, ignore that feeling. At this point, you have no idea why they want to search and you don’t need to know.

Just politely refuse. You can say something like, “I know you’re doing your job, but I don’t consent to searches of any kind.” You can keep repeating this.

Why is this important?

If police are trying to make a case against you in court, they don’t have to tell you what they’re doing. Anything you consent to makes it legal in the eyes of the law.

However, if police obtain something without your consent this makes it much harder for them to use it legally in their case against you.

Yes, you may want to keep them from finding anything at all. Or you may simply dislike having your space being searched. However, in the event that police illegally search or search without your consent, it’s better to be alive and safe with evidence that can be thrown out of your case than otherwise.


Having a police encounter can be stressful for the most innocent of us. It’s best to protect your rights AND your life by politely refusing searches of any kind, but not resisting. Say as little as possible and avoid incriminating yourself.

Afterward, if you are charged with a crime, a defense attorney can do much more for your in court if you’ve taken these first steps to protect your own rights.

Finally, if you are facing charges related to a police encounter gone wrong, call a criminal defense attorney immediately. If you live in Michigan, call my office today.

Call today