Officers need probable cause to pull you over while driving

You had a few drinks. You decided to drive home, knowing that you didn't feel intoxicated enough to have to worry. Despite driving safely, you see an officer turn on his lights behind you.

If you're stopped by the police, you need to protect your rights. You may think that you need to follow the officer's every instruction, but there are some times in which you could hurt your own defense by doing so.

When can an officer stop you?

An officer has to have probable cause to stop you when you're driving. He or she may not stop you for no reason. For instance, if you run a stop sign, then an officer has a reason to stop you. If you're driving safely and under the speed limit, there's really no reason for you to get pulled over.

What are some reasons officers might stop vehicles?

Violating the law is the first reason officers may pull you over. For example, if you speed, weave in or out of your lane, run a red light or hit someone, an officer is likely to stop you and check on your well-being. Other reasons you might get pulled over include having extremely loud exhaust pipes, lights out, unrepaired body damage on your vehicle, darkly tinted windows or a cracked windshield.

Once an officer stops you, he or she may look into your vehicle from the outside and look for signs of alcohol use. He or she may ask if you've been drinking. You don't have to say anything that could result in an arrest. It's in your best interests to ask the officer why you were stopped and nothing more.

Give the officer your license and registration. Put your hands on the steering wheel, too, so the officer knows that you're not looking to pull out a weapon or hiding anything from him or her. This will help you appear less guilty of any inappropriate actions. If the officer asks if you've been drinking, it's okay to respond, "Why do you ask?" Some people don't respond and ask if the officer wants to see the license and registration.

If you're pulled over, it's in your best interests to know your rights. Don't do anything that could lead to incriminating yourself.

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