So a cop stops you for swerving, going too fast, or some other reason, and you have had a few drinks. This is the time to start thinking about legal strategy, believe it or not. When folks come to me after getting charged with DWI I usually have to tell them they were so very helpful and polite and cooperative with the cops that they just smiled and talked their way into a DWI conviction. Don’t do it. Let me tell you, the cops are not here to be your buddies. They’re not you friends and they’re not looking for reasons to let you drive home. That’s not how they get paid, see? So if you wanna play hardball, you wanna fight fire with fire, here’s what:
1. Before hand: Just as general rule, don’t do stupid shit in your car that will make you a cop magnet.
Speeding? Running a red light or stop sign? You got a brake light out? Your tag’s out of date? Window tint too dark? Insurance expired? Or you’re driving your pal’s car and any of those things are true for him (remember that cops like to run the license plates and see what the registered owner is up to so they can have some bullshit reason to stop the car.) You give the coppers a reason to pull you over you’re asking for trouble. BTW: I don’t mean “do it this way so you can drive drunk and not get caught”. I mean WHATEVER you’re doing, drive safely and with a car that is 100% legal and in compliance. Cops will look at you with their cop eyes and make a decision whether to look more closely or not. Don’t give them any reason. If the cop dreams up some bullshit your attorney can argue that your driving was safe and lawful and the cop was out of his mind to pull you over.
2. On the stop: Put your flashers on and pull over immediately.
Do it safely and lawfully. Don’t stop in the middle of the road. Pull on to the shoulder if there is one. Pull into a side street if there’s one close by. If there’s a convenient parking lot, go there. Don’t drive on forever looking for some ideal spot. Do it quickly but be safe about it. Don’t turn one way and then change your mind. Be decisive and be quick. Don’t hesitate. When you’re in court, your attorney can show how safety-minded you were. That’s a point in your favor.
3. Parking: Put the car in park, turn the engine off, put the keys on the dashboard, interior lights on, radio off, cigarettes out, and hands on the wheel and roll your driver window down.
Cops get nervous when they have to approach a dark car, engine on etc. Not that we really give damn how they feel but if you do all I say, it shows how understanding you are of the cop’s position, which translates to being very much in control of your faculties. People who are in control of their faculties cannot be said to be “appreciably impaired”. More ammo for your hired gun lawyer.
4. Stuff in the car: I certainly hope you have the sense not to drive around with an open beer or weed or something.
If the cop pulls you over and you have done as I say to light up the interior of your car, he’ll see all the stuff you have in there. If you have an empty or he smells weed or you have a dead body on the seat next to you, you’re asking for trouble. Don’t give him anything to look at. Remember “plain view”. If he sees contraband or something suspicious, you’re cooked. Don’t give him the chance. PS: If you are a carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) person, make sure you comply with those rules too. Make that CCW a part of the docs you show the cop (next part, below).
5. At the window: Cop walks to your car and asks for your license and registration. Have your stuff at the ready.
Don’t let the cop say in court that you “fumbled” trying to find it. Judges just love that and will use it as evidence of your state of intoxication (“he couldn’t even find his license!”). Make sure you comply with your state’s CCW laws if you have lawful concealed weapon. If you have an unlawful weapon, that’s your own tough luck. When he asks for the stuff, retrieve it. Do not look around in the car for your shit before he asks you for it unless it can be easily retrieved without looking like you’re concealing evidence or trying to find a gun. Fumbling for it is bad. Fumbling for it while the cop is trying to pull you over will make you drive badly and make the cop think you’re hiding something. If he’s at the window before you can conveniently get to your documents, tell him that you are going to get them from the glove box or your console etc BEFORE you reach for it. That’ll make him see you understand his concerns (more in your favor in court).
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