General September 20, 2021
If you are pulled over by the police or the CHP you need to know your legal rights. As a former police department officer and former California Judge pro tem, below is my list of “Do’s and Don’ts” when you get pulled over.
- PULL OVER – When you see red lights behind you, slow down, use your turn indicator and pull over as soon as you can safely. If they use their PA system follow the officer’s instructions. Never, ever, make the stupid decision to refuse to pull over and flee, as cops are trained to first remember your plate numbers. Evading is a misdemeanor with penalties of up to one (1) year in jail, fine up to $1,000.00 and the impound of your bike. I will tell you that if you do try to flee, you will most likely break additional laws (unsafe speed, lane changes etc.) which will escalate the charges to Felony Reckless Evasion (C.V.C. §2800.2)
- HANDS VISIBLE – Keep your hands in plain view on your grips when the officer approaches your bike and especially at night. Do not make any quick moves or any sly moves what the police call “furtive gestures” meaning movements attempting to avoid notice or movements suggestive of guilty nervousness.
- DOCUMENTS – The next thing the officer will do is to ask for your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Have all of your documents current and in order. If your registration documents are under your pop-up seat, ask the officer “May I please get my documents under my seat” I keep my documents in a zip lock baggie with the air removed in a small cubby hole above the battery or my other bike in my tool pouch mounted on my front fork.
- BE POLITE – “Yes Sir” No Sir”. Ask the officer if you can “please” take your helmet off and turn off your bike. This will give the office assurance that you will not flee.
- WAIT PATIENTLY – Hand the officer your documents and wait. The office will walk back to his car and “run wants and warrants.” Remember you have nothing to hide.
- NEVER ADMIT GUILT – The officer will then ask you “Do you know why I pulled you over? Your response is “No Sir”. The officer will then tell you that “Things will go a lot easier if you just tell me the truth.” Do not fall for this. The officer is simply trying to get an admission of liability. You have a Constitutional right to remain silent. If you are arrested remain SILENT. If they ask questions, your ONLY response is “I want to speak to my attorney” this will, by law, stop any and all further questioning. If asked again keep repeating “I want to speak to my attorney.”
- DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH – In the United States the “Plain View Doctrine” is an exception to the 4th Amendment arrant requirement. This allows officers to seize evidence and contraband that is found in their plain view during a lawful observation. This means that an officer can use his flashlight to look around your bike and under your seat when you open it to get your documents. Otherwise the 4th Amendment restricts the officers ability to search your bike or personal property with two basic exceptions. The first is “Consent” where the officer asks “Is it O.K. if I search your backpack?” Simply say “No sir, I do not consent.” The second is a “pat down search” or “stop and frisk.” For their protection, officers are permitted to make fast surface scan and searches of your outer clothing for weapons. Pat downs are allowed is the officer has a reasonable suspicion the suspect has a weapon. A reasonable suspicion must be founded on specific facts known to the officer not simply a hunch or gut feeling. Most officers will have reasonable suspicion based on crime in the area but some profile based on club patches or affiliations. If they search your vehicle or personal property without your consent contact legal representation later and remain calm.
- DO NOT CALL, TEXT OR VIDEOTAPE – There is reason to call, text or videotape a normal traffic stop. This will only “bait” and “anger” the officer.
- DO NOT ARGUE – Do not argue with the officer. Do not allege profiling. Remember you may have actually been pulled over for a valid reason (out-of-date registration, illegal lane change, speeding). If you feel that you were pulled over unjustly, don’t argue, be professional, get the officer’s information and file a written complaint with the department.
- DON’T BE A JERK – Remember the police and CHP are simply doing their job to protect the public and enforce the rules of the road. They have a tough, thankless job. Remember to be polite and the traffic stop will be over before you know it and life will go on.
About California Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Tom Reinecke:
Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been a highest rated California Motorcycle Injury Lawyer and has been named the “Best Motorcycle Lawyer” and the Motorcycle “Super Lawyer” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Tom was recently named one of the “Top 100” Personal Injury Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers (2018, 2019). A graduate of UCLA and author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom Reinecke has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases in California and recovered millions of dollars for his for his clients.
If you, a friend, or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident or have any questions and need answers, visit us at BestMotorycleLawyer.com or call me us anytime at (800) 275-8326.