Almost 50% of police contact with the public occurs at a traffic stop. Let’s talk about what to do if you happen to be one of the 18 million Americans who has been pulled over for a traffic violation.
The police and the public interact for any number of reasons. Most of the time, we comfort ourselves with the thought that the police only really want to talk to people who are breaking the law. However, statistics show that most of us will talk to the police in the context of a routine traffic stop. In fact, in a broad study conducted in 2008 (the last year for which statistics are available), almost 18 million Americans reported police encounters based on alleged traffic violations. Knowing your rights and options in such a situation is crucial.
Many traffic stops serve as the basis for a more exhaustive and sometimes more serious allegation of wrongdoing. In fact, the research done in the study shows that about 5% of all stops led to a search of the vehicle. Unfortunately, this number rises if you’re male (to 7.4%) and of a minority ethnic group. African-American drivers are most likely to get searched, male or female, at 12.3%. Hispanic drivers reported a rate just over the 5% average. Most drivers reported being pulled over for speeding. What stems from a simple stop can lead to a much more complicated situation. A traffic violations lawyer can help you determine whether proper procedures were followed and what your options might be.
By and large, the public reported speeding as the most common reason for a stop. The vast majority of drivers (85% overall) acknowledged that the reason for the stop was probably legitimate, especially when the stopping officer was of the same race. However, that number drops to 74% for African-American drivers and 82% for Hispanic drivers. Looking a little deeper into the statistics, about 1% of drivers had physical force used on them in the course of a traffic stop.
What To Do
Obviously, cooperate with the police. Provide any identifying information they request, but refrain from commenting on the situation. Ask to speak to a knowledgeable traffic violations lawyer prior to making any statements. Seek out representation that is competent and provides a high level of service. The right choice may change your life.