Refugee Resource Center

Getting stopped by police

Police officers are here to protect us and they want to help people. But sometimes things can go wrong. Maybe you have seen stories in the news about people getting hurt or killed by officers who became afraid that they would be killed. This does not happen often, but you should know what to do so things are unlikely to go wrong.

You want to try to keep officers from feeling nervous or threatened when they pull you over in your car.

How you know an officer wants you to stop

If a police officer wants to talk to you, he or she will drive behind you and turn on flashing lights and maybe a loud siren.

You might be stopped by a police officer in a city or, if you are on a highway, by a Texas State Trooper.

Pull over to the right.

When you see the flashing lights behind you, start to slow down. Get ready to drive your car to the side of the road. Always pull over to the right as far as you can, especially on a highway. The left side is more dangerous.

Show the officer that you have seen him or her and are going to pull over. Turn on your blinker to show that you are moving to the right side of the road.

Find a safe place to stop.

Only stop your car in a safe area. Think “safety first” for you and the officer. Look for a place to stop that has enough space so both you and the officer will be away from traffic.

If you are on a busy city street like Lamar Blvd, pull over into a parking lot.

If you are on a highway and there is an exit coming up, pull off onto the access road.

If you must keep driving for a short time before you can stop, put on your blinking hazard lights. You are showing the officer that you understand you need to stop and you are not trying to run away.

There are parts of I-35 and MoPac (Loop 1) that do not have room to pull over safely, so keep driving until the next exit.

You can also look for a parking lot on an access road. Parking lots with bright lights are best.

Stay in the car.

After you stop, stay in the car. If you get out of the car, the officer may fear you will be aggressive or think you have something to hide in the car.

Turn off the engine and roll down your window. If it’s dark, turn on your dome light so the officer can see you. (That is the light on the ceiling of your car.)

Keep both hands on the steering wheel.

Keep your hands on the wheel and remain still as the officer walks to your car. You don’t want to give him or her any reason to believe you’re a threat.

Stay calm. Take some deep breaths and relax. It may take some time for the officer to come talk to you. When they stop a car, officers they look up your license plate in their computer to see who you are and if you have any warrants for your arrest. This is called “running your plates.”

Talk calmly to the officer.

When the officer gets to your window, he or she will probably ask you if you know why you were stopped.

If you were speeding or did something else against the rules, sometimes it helps to say, “I’m sorry.” Often, if you say something like, “I’m sorry. I’ll pay more attention next time,” the officer will let you go with just a warning instead of a ticket.

Wait for the officer to ask for your driver’s license and insurance card.

Don’t get your license and insurance card ready while the officer walks to your car. You don’t want the officer to think you are reaching for a gun or hiding something.

When the officer asks for your driver’s license and insurance card, move slowly and carefully. Tell the officer what you are doing before you do it. (“Yes, officer, my wallet is in my back pocket. I’m going to get my license out of it for you now. OK?”)

After you’ve handed the officer your documents, put your hands back on the steering wheel.

Be respectful and don’t argue.

Be polite even if you think the officer is wrong or rude. It is good to show the officer respect by saying “ma’am” or “sir.”

If you don’t agree that you did something wrong, don’t argue. The side of the road is not the place to argue. If you get a ticket and you want to fight it, you can do that later in court and in front of a judge.

If the officer tells you to get out of the car, follow instructions.

Take the ticket.

If the officer gives you a ticket, he or she will ask you to sign it. You are not admitting you are guilty. You are just saying that you received the ticket.

The ticket should give you instructions on what to do next.

Be calm, be respectful and don’t argue.

Stay safe out there!



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