You are zooming along a 2-lane road at night, with no other cars in sight. Maybe you are going a little faster than the speed limit, but you believe you are being safe.
Suddenly, you look behind you and see those dreaded red and blue police flashing lights. Where did a cop come from? You pull over to the shoulder. What now?
Did the police officer ambush you by remaining hidden in the dark? Is it legal for cops to sit with their lights off? What should you say and do once they walk up to your car?
Read along for the answers to all these questions and more, so you can know your rights when pulled over—whether you saw the cop ahead of time or not.
CAN COPS HIDE WITH THEIR LIGHTS OFF?
You might be wondering, “Do cops have to have their lights on at night?” The short answer is, “No.”
Cops do not have to have their lights on at night. They can legally hide with their lights off. And they can pull you over for violating the law, whether they advertised their presence or not.
It is not considered entrapment in a court of law.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M BEING PULLED OVER AT NIGHT?
Being pulled over by police at night is not really different than being pulled over during the day. The light or lack thereof does not change your rights or the police’s authority.
- Pull over in a safe place.
If it is night, look for a well-lit area. If there is nowhere to pull over for miles, continue driving the speed limit and pull over as soon as practicable.
Then call 9-1-1 and let them know you are aware that you are being pulled over, and you will stop at the next populated, well-lit option (gas station, fast food restaurant, etc.). They can communicate with the cop pulling you over.
- Cooperate, but do not incriminate.
Roll down your window, and make sure your hands are where the officer can see them. You have the right to turn on your internal car overhead lights.
Don’t use quick movements, and do let the officer know what you are doing with each movement. For instance, “My registration is in the glove compartment. Is it okay if I reach over there?”
Most police will ask you two questions: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” and “Do you know how fast you were going?”
We recommend answering the first one with “No,” so that you don’t incriminate yourself. And whether or not you know how fast you were going, you do not have to tell the police officer. Let them tell you.
- Know your rights.
Your rights when pulled over include:
- the right to remain silent, though you should tell the police verbally that you are exercising that right.
- in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the right to film the interaction with the police, without police consent; they cannot confiscate the video later.
- the right to know why you are being detained.
- the right to not be pulled over without a legal reason. A police officer cannot pull you over and say, “I assumed you were breaking the law” or, “You look suspicious.” They have to have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.
- the right to refuse a search. However, if the police perform an illegal search of your person or your car, do not stop them; let a lawyer sort that out later.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A COP FLASHES HIS LIGHTS AT YOU?
If a cop pulls up behind you and continuously flashes his lights at you, he or she is pulling you over, whether or not the siren is on.
If a cop pulls up behind you or drives past you and quickly flashes his lights and turns them off, it is probably a courtesy or warning. Check your own headlights and speed, and make sure your gas tank is closed, just in case any of those things are the issue.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM TICKETED OR CHARGED?
Virginia traffic laws state that you can be charged a monetary amount (a fine) for traffic violations. You may also end up with demerit points on your DMV record.
There are common defenses against traffic tickets, and Cook Attorneys are standing by to help you build your defense.
Some tickets can be fought against because you cannot be pulled over for those things alone. Others can be fought if you were pulled over or searched illegally.
And many times we can discuss with the police officer and the prosecutor a resolution of the case that minimizes the negative consequences to you and can even avoid you having to attend the court hearing.
Let our experienced traffic defense lawyers fight on your behalf and challenge any ticket that was issued improperly.
Fill out the form below to request more information about how we can serve you. We look forward to hearing from you!