As an experienced criminal defense attorney in Ohio, you may have heard conflicting information on what to do if you are pulled over by law enforcement. The best and most important advice I have is don’t drink and drive. But, even if you are sober or have had only one drink, police behind you with lights flashing scares everyone. Pull over safely and if it’s nighttime, put your interior lights on. Keep your seat belt on. When the officer approaches your car, open your window half way and be polite saying as little as possible. When pulled over, you are under their control, but this does not mean you are under arrest. You are only required to provide your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. You will be watched at how you show your license – did you fumble – did you hand over the wrong ID, etc, to determine if you exhibit any signs of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your eyes will be looked at to see if they are glossy or red. Keep in mind, the most sober of us can be so nervous with police at our window, we often make mistakes. It is normal to be confused about your rights and obligations when you are pulled over by the police and to be scared.
The officer will most likely start a line of questioning—asking where you are coming from, where you are going, what your earlier activities were, etc. They seem innocent, but giving the cops more information could only give them more reason to detain you. Of course, the longer you are detained, the greater your chances of being arrested. A good criminal defense attorney will tell you the best thing to do is politely refuse to answer questions or engage in a conversation. But, to be polite and silent even if you are asked why you don’t want to speak or are told only the guilty refuse to talk to police. These are tricks and you do not need to answer.
The Bottom Line: Remain silent. Be polite. These are your Constitutional rights against self incrimination. Never give the police permission to search you, the car, the trunk, or any item inside the car. Simply say you are calling your criminal defense attorney. Keep my number on you at all times, and call me. 513-260-2099