DENVER — We’ve all been in a situation with our window down and flashing lights behind us. A traffic stop is usually an uncomfortable situation for both parties, but it should be harmless.
“Whenever a law enforcement OFFICER contacts you, we are putting ourselves in an unknown situation,” Sgt. Rob Madden of the Colorado State Patrol said. “It is very comforting for any law enforcement officer when somebody complies with basic directions.”
There are two things that you legally have to do when you are pulled over:
- Provide documents: A driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance
- If you’re asked to get out of the car, you have to get out of the car
“There’s going to be a reason for that. So our guard is going to be heightened when you get out of the vehicle,” Sgt. Madden said.
But any other requests, like searching your vehicle, must have your consent or they cannot be done.
“You tell them that you do not consent to the car being searched and they can’t search it unless they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed,” local defense lawyer Dan Recht said.
Traffic stops can be quick and harmless, but it’s on both parties to help it go smoothly.
“The worst thing you can do when you get pulled over is get into battle with police,” Recht said. “You’re not going to win that battle. Be polite, keep your hands where the police can see them, but you don’t have to talk.”
Sgt. Madden said the police are only there to do their job.
“Taking an uncomfortable situation and trying to turn it into as much as an education as possible.”