When you see the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in your rearview mirror, your heart can sink to your stomach. The anxiety you feel when being pulled over can easily take hold, and cause a complex combination of emotions. No one likes to get a ticket, and no one likes to answer a police officer’s probing questions. If you do get pulled over though, try to remain calm and remember that you have rights. Keeping a level head will help prevent a situation from escalating and ending with disaster. No one knows this better than the family of Sandra Bland, from Texas, and her stop and resulting arrest and death are things we can all learn from for the future.

The video of the stop sheds light on some very important criminal law issues that everyone should know. The top three things to be learned from the Sandra Bland stop include:

  • You do not have to get out of your car when asked to do so by the officer. Unless the officer also articulates a reason for the request that you exit your vehicle, you are not obligated to get out of the car. Keep in mind that refusing to do so may cause an escalation of tensions, and this may result in a confrontation.
  • You are not obligated to answer any of the officer’s questions other than to identify yourself. You have the right to state that you will only answer questions in the presence of an attorney. Again, taking this approach may cause an otherwise calm situation to turn hectic, so proceed with caution.
  • If you are placed under arrest you have the right to be told why you are being arrested.

The way in which you react to being pulled over can set the tone for your entire case. But this does not mean that you have to roll over and give in to every request made by the police. A criminal defendant has rights, and every one of us is entitled to enforce our rights. The type of crime for which you are being stopped may play a part in how you behave during a stop, and should also dictate the officer’s behavior. Unfortunately this is not always the way things go, as the case of Sandra Bland so painfully illustrates. If you have been arrested for a traffic related crime, or received what seems like a harmless traffic ticket, call our office for help.

If you have questions about criminal cases, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.