What Not to Do When You Get Pulled Over
by Ethan Glover, Mon, Apr 20, 2015 - (Edited) Tue, Oct 18, 2016
I'm ashamed to say it, but the first time I was pulled over for anything other than speeding, I was compliant and cooperative. If I hadn't drawn the line where I did, I may very well be sitting in prison with a life sentence, totally innocent. When it comes to police encounters, this is a prime example of what not to do.
Last Thursday I was pulled over by a New Hampshire state police K-9 unit. I only recently moved to the state, but when I dealt with police in Missouri, I found that if you chat with them a bit, you can distract them from wanting to incriminate you for any arbitrary crime they can think of. This strategy didn't work here.
When the cop asked me for my license and registration, I should have asked him why he pulled me over, and challenged him on those reasons, with a camera running. As I'll explain later, he had no reason at all for pulling me over in the first place.
Instead I handed him my license and insurance card, my registration has been lost for some time. Trying to strike up that chat, I mentioned that I'm getting a new registration soon.
The officer looked at me then at my cars center console at a seat-belt cutter. He asked, "Is that a knife? Do you have anything in here that you shouldn't?" I told him no and kindly showed him the cutter. The cop then asked me why I was nervous. I told him I wasn't, but this question about my nerves was repeated every couple of minutes during our encounter.
But with this claim of nervousness, the officer had his reason to take things further. He asked me to step out of the car, and instead of asking him why, I naively did so.
Standing at the front of my car we talked about it's front end damage. It's missing a front bumper, and certainly doesn't look pretty due to an accident in Ohio on my trip here. But mechanically, as my dealership confirmed, it's safe to drive.
Of course, this police officer didn't care about safety. He told me that if I wanted to drive in New Hampshire, I needed to get it inspected in New Hampshire. That's despite the fact that I still have current Missouri plates.
He also told me that the window tint on my car is illegal, I now know this to be false. Not that it matters because once again, it's definitely legal in Missouri.
After reminding me that I was nervous once again, the police officer told me to put my hands on my head so he could pat me down and look for weapons. Even if I were thinking enough to do so, the cop has his hands on me before I could make any objections.
The officer asked, "What are those metal cans in your back seat." I told him it's a water filter set that busted during my move to New Hampshire. He asked me if he could take a look so I opened the back door and showed him.
The cop said, "I don't believe you're using these for water." I had to laugh at that, not realizing the seriousness of what he was saying, "What do you think I'm using these for?" - "It could be all kinds of things."
Telling me once again that I looked "nervous," the officer said he wanted to search my car to make sure I didn't have anything I wasn't supposed to have. It was only at this point that I finally decided to establish a boundary.
I told him no, and that he had already taken up a lot of my time. I said that I felt like I had given him an inch, and he was trying to take a mile.
Instead of searching my car, he told me he was going to get his dog and run him around my car. When I asked him if the dog would damage the paint job he said, "Absolutely, there will be damage to your car."
He told me to stand away from the car, by some nearby bushes, and to turn my back, for his "safety." I asked, "I can't watch the dog?" He said if I didn't turn around, he would have to get another officer on the scene to watch me. I told him to do so.
If I hadn't, in hindsight, he may very well have planted drugs in my vehicle and claimed that the dog had found it.
As the dog went around, he jumped on my car six or seven times, I could hear his claws hit it every time.
After that was done, he told me I was free to go. He never said a thing about the fact that I didn't have registration. My only "ticketable" offense. The guy had a one track mission to find (or possibly create) a drug bust.
I may have gotten myself into some serious trouble, just by "complying" with an officers requests and trying to start a normal, human conversation with a drone who just wants to incriminate me for something.
I should have shut him down from the very beginning by asking him why he pulled me over before I handed him my license. If he said anything about the window tint or front-end damage, I should have pointed him to the Missouri inspection sticker on my windshield and asked him if I was free to go.
If he asked me to get out of the car, I should have said, "No, thanks for asking. Are you detaining me? Am I free to go?"
By shutting him down from the beginning, I wouldn't have had to deal with any of this in the first place. Next time, I won't be so compliant, and the camera will be on. Not just to show that I'm willing to hold the officer accountable, but for my own personal safety.
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