Most people have faced a traffic stop at least once in their lives. Often, if you are unaware of breaking the law, you could have a dim tail light or a tire that is starting to go flat. Never assume the worst.
Do not allow yourself to feel or behave defensively. Guilty people quickly become defensive, and you do not want to look that way. Why? Because in many cities in California, police wear body cameras. They record every expression on your face and tension in your body movements.
Keep your voice neutral and polite
Giving attitude to a police officer may make you feel good, but you are not making any friends. Much of what happens during the stop may depend on your willingness to cooperate and behave respectfully.
At night, ask permission to turn on the dome light inside your car. If the officer can see you, she will have less reason to wonder if you are trying to hide something. If you have a carry permit and a weapon with you, immediately ask the officer if you can show your permit.
Be aware of your facial expressions
Remember, a law enforcement body cam will not show the officer’s face. The officer could sneer at you, and if you sneer back, the camera will show you behaving rudely for no reason. Perhaps the officer has hay fever and is trying not to sneeze. Through the entire stop, remind yourself you are on camera. This is not the time to practice an eye roll.
The big question
If the officer asks if you know why she pulled you over, tell the truth. If you honestly do not know, say so. If you are under the influence of drugs, you do not have to volunteer the information. If she asks you directly and you prefer not to answer, you may ask the officer, “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?” The officer cannot search your vehicle without probable cause. She will understand that you also know that, and—unless you have seriously broken the law—she will probably have to let you go.
If the officer sees you are obviously under the influence of a substance and orders you to take a blood or urine drug test and you refuse, the state of California will suspend your driver’s license. Also, the court will have your body cam refusal on record as evidence against you at trial for a DUI charge.
For your own safety, think seriously before you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. California has a high number of auto accidents. The state has some of the harshest laws in the nation when it comes to impaired driving due to drugs if more than a first offense.