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What To Do When a Police Officer Approaches Your Vehicle in DC

The following is taken from an interview with a DC DUI lawyer as they discuss how to react when pulled over and approached by law enforcement in your car. This includes whether to turn your car off, whether you should have your registration ready, and what you should expect from the officer’s questions following a stop. If you have been charged as the result of a DUI stop, call and schedule a consultation to discuss your case today.

What Are The First Things You Should Do If Pulled Over By Law Enforcement in DC?

If you’re pulled over, and it’s a situation where you have had alcohol, so you’re concerned that the officer is going to investigate you, you definitely don’t want to make any kinds of admission about having had an alcoholic drink. In these types of cases it is usually better not to perform the field sobriety tests, and instead request to speak to an attorney and just say, “Look, I don’t want to do anything here without consulting with an attorney.”

For example, if an officer asks you, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”, that is something that you wouldn’t necessarily want to answer. Saying yes would mean you’re now admitting that you’ve done something wrong. Just say, “I’m sorry. Could you please explain to me why you pulled me over?” You want to show to the officer that you’re taking this seriously and that you’re not a danger to them. Put them at ease and comply with their basic initial requests. If you feel as though they’re trying to investigate you and you’re worried about it, ask to talk to an attorney. It’s perfectly acceptable and legal to request to speak to an attorney. That’s true day or night if you had anything to drink or not.

Should You Take Out Your Registration From The Glove Box?

You should be prepared to do so. You can wait until the officer asks you, so they doesn’t think that you’re reaching for a gun or anything as they are approaching the vehicle, but be prepared to have your license, registration and insurance ready to show to the officer. This is why it makes a lot of sense to have them in a position where you can easily retrieve them without having to fumble about.

Should You Turn Your Car Off?

No, don’t turn your car off. It would be slightly unusual to turn your car off and so you should leave your car running until and unless the officer requests that you do so

Is Anything Different During a Night Stop?

No. I do not recommend turning on the in-car lights until an officer asks you to do so. An officer is going to ask you to roll down your window. If an officer asks you to do so, go ahead and do it. You don’t necessarily have to roll it all the way down unless you’re asked to. Again, you want to make sure you’re relatively compliant. You don’t want to look like you’re trying to hide something or you’re making motions. That might make an officer nervous. So, basically, what you want to do is just be calm, be respectful and comply with an officer’s request for your information, meaning your license, registration and insurance.

If Pulled Over By An Unmarked Vehicle Can You Ask to See Their Badge?

Absolutely. If you have concern that the officer is not, in fact, a law enforcement officer, you absolutely are allowed to ask for identification to confirm their identity. It’s a perfectly reasonable request to say, “Officer, if you don’t mind, can you show me identification? I want to make sure.” That shows that you’re someone who is concerned for your own safety and the officer will respect that.

Again, you do it politely. You don’t want to make accusations, saying things such as, “You’re not a real police officer,” or anything like that. You can however say, “You’re not in uniform, could you show me your identification?” That way, you can also make a mental note of the officer’s name, or badge number, so that if something untoward happens during your interaction with the officer, you have the information.