Before you leave your home, you should make a quick check and confirm that your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance are all in the vehicle with you. You want to make sure you have this documentation because as soon as you start your commute, there’s a chance you’ll be pulled over. Not having these three items could result in your car getting impounded.
When you see a cop’s flashing lights in your rear view mirror, the first thing you must do is make a quick assessment of your environment and determine if you’re in a safe place to pull over. While you should always slow down and make it obvious that you’re not trying to run from the police, you have the right to continue driving for a short distance until you can pull over in a safe location. This is especially important if you’re on a curve or hill when you see the flashing lights.
When you are ready to pull over, pull as far off to the right side of the road as you possibly can. You don’t want to put your vehicle in a ditch, but you also want it well out of the way of passing traffic.
Put your vehicle in park, turn on your hazard lights and sit with your hands visible until the officer reaches your vehicle. They will tell you when they want to see your documentation.
Listen to what the officer says. One of the first things they will tell you is why they pulled you over, this is your opportunity to defend yourself. You also have the right to not offer up a defense, which in all honesty, is smarter. Trying to defend your actions to the officer could become a problem if you decide to fight the traffic ticket. If you don’t want to defend your actions, simply tell the officer that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.
If the officer asks if they can search your vehicle, you are allowed to tell them no. They’re still allowed to search it, but your lack of consent should be noted.
If you’re issued a ticket, pay attention to any information the officer includes when they hand you the citation. They should tell you when it needs to be paid and where you should send the check.
Whether you plan on simply paying the ticket or you intend to fight the citation, don’t delay. Deal with the citation right away. The only thing delaying does is lead to additional fines being added to the ticket and even the possible suspension of your driver’s license.
The most important thing to do when you’re pulled over in California is to stay calm, cool and collected. You should also pay careful attention to everything the police officer says.