Five Things to Do When the Highway Patrol Stops You

March 28, 2013   |   Keith Williams

You see the blue light. You feel your stomach churn.

You are being pulled over by the Highway Patrol.

What should you do? Five tips:

  • Keep your hands on the wheel. The trooper is trained to watch your hands. This is *not* the time to go rummaging through your center console or your glove box. Produce your driver’s license and registration when requested, but otherwise keep your hands in plain sight of the trooper. You don’t want him thinking you’re going for a gun.
  • Keep your mouth shut. You have the right to remain silent. Use it. “Do you know how fast you were going?” Answer: “No.” “Have many beers have you had to drink tonight?” Answer: if you’ve been drinking, there’s no good answer. Don’t respond. If you are arrested and put in the patrol car, be aware that anything you say is probably being recorded. Say nothing.
  • Do not consent to a search of your car. Troopers are trained to write you a speeding ticket, hand you back your license, and then ask, “Hey, before you go, would it be OK if I search your car?” Tell the trooper that it would *not* be OK, and then get back in your car and drive away.
  • If a search is done anyway, be clear that you object – but otherwise get out of the way. The trooper may have a legal right to search your car even if you don’t consent. As you stand there on the side of the road, be clear that you object to the search, but do not try to get between the trooper and your vehicle. It can get ugly fast, and it won’t help you or the trooper to turn it into a fight.
  • Call a lawyer as soon as possible. Self-serving advice from a lawyer? No. I have people call me all the time who tried to handle a case on their own, only to make things much worse. Whether the trooper gave you a speeding ticket, a drug charge, or something in between, you need to talk to a lawyer (and no one else) at your first opportunity.

Keith Williams is a Board Certified Specialist in Federal and State Criminal Law who practices in Greenville, NC. For more information, visit [first posted on July 14 2011]