What to do if You Have Been Pulled Over for a Traffic Violation

After being pulled over for a traffic violation, stay calm, lower your driver-side window and stay put while the law enforcement officer approaches you. Don’t be surprised if the law enforcement officer approaches the passenger side of your car. Often, police officers do this to avoid being hit by passing vehicles.

Turn off the engine of your vehicle and put the ignition key on the dashboard. This allows the police officer to feel safe. If it’s dark, turn on your inside light so that the law enforcement officer can see inside your vehicle. Doing this allows the police officer to be sure that there’s no danger to him or her. Often, police officers believe that any traffic stop carries the potential for personal attacks and thus the driver must avoid any misunderstandings.

Thus, if you’re pulled over by law enforcement officers who suspect you of committing a traffic violation in Illinois, it’s essential to know your constitutional rights. If a traffic stop results in an arrest, it’s imperative to speak promptly with an experienced Chicago Traffic Lawyer. Here are common reasons you may attract the attention of the police traffic:

  • Your license plate is improperly affixed to the car.
  • A broken tail light or turn signal, headlight, or brake light isn’t working.
  • You tossed out a gum or candy wrapper, or a food wrapper.
  • Something is hanging from your rearview mirror, or your windshield is obstructed.
  • Erratic driving or speeding will almost always get you stopped by the police.

Contact Chicago Traffic Lawyers today at (708) 465-1040 for a free initial consultation.

Table of Contents

What are the Do’s and Don’ts When Getting Pulled Over?

For most people, traffic stops by police officers are stressful or even frightening. And often at traffic stops, people aren’t treated fairly or even legally by law enforcement officers. At a traffic stop, you may remain silent, and you may have a traffic attorney present during any interrogation. When a police officer signals for you to pull over, safely stop to the right side of the road and away from any moving traffic. If you drive in Illinois, know your legal rights, so that you can use them when you need to. If you are stopped by the police officer:

What to do if You Have Been Pulled Over for a Traffic Violation
  • Wait until the officer asks you to produce your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance.
  • Don’t reach under your seat for anything. The police officer may think you are reaching for a weapon and take offensive measures.
  • Stay in your vehicle because exiting your car without being asked is taken as a threat of danger.
  • Don’t root around in the vehicle for anything because this raises suspicion and will place undue stress on the law enforcement officer.
  • Once it seems appropriate, ask the police officer if you’re free to go.
  • If you aren’t free to go, ask politely, “For what reason are you holding me up?”
  • Exercise your constitutional right to remain silent and say politely, “I choose to exercise my legal right to remain silent.” A police officer can’t arrest or detain you for exercising your constitutional right to remain silent.
  • Don’t agree to a search. The officer might conduct a search anyway, but it’s essential to state clearly, “I don’t consent to a search.”
  • If you’re receiving a traffic ticket, cooperate. Give the law enforcement officer your name and date of birth, and sign the traffic ticket. Not cooperating regarding a traffic ticket could get you arrested.
  • Don’t be disrespectful.
  • Don’t physically resist a “pat-down” or body search or try to run. Just say “I don’t consent to a search,” but otherwise cooperate with the officer.
  • Don’t lie to the police. Instead, just politely exercise your right to remain silent.
  • It’s essential to know police officers are legally allowed to lie to and try to intimidate you.
  • If you’re arrested, ask the police officer if you can park your vehicle safely or have a friend or family member drive it away. Otherwise, you’ll pay towing fees and impound fees.

What if the Police Officer Wants to Search My Vehicle?

Illinois law protects everyone from unreasonable search and seizure. A police officer must have a search warrant before he or she can search a person or property. However, if a police officer requests to search you or your car, and you consent, then he or she doesn’t need a search warrant to conduct the search. Another exception is called “probable cause”. If a law enforcement official has a reason to suspect that there’s an illegal activity going on in your car or has concluded that a search of your car or person may lead to sufficient evidence of contraband, then your consent isn’t needed.

What if the Police Officer Wants to Test You for DUI?

Under the Illinois Summary Suspension law, if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, you’ll be subject to a mandatory 1-year driver’s license suspension, especially if you’re a first-time DUI offender. However, if you take the DUI test and the result is 0.08 or more, you may face a mandatory 6-month license suspension. Many DUI criminal defense attorneys suggest that the trade-off of a longer license suspension is worthwhile in lessening the odds of a DUI conviction.

Police officers often ask drivers under suspicion of drunk driving to perform field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests include the walk and turn test, the one-leg stand test, an eye test called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, as well as the Preliminary Breath Screening Test. However, it’s not illegal to take any of these tests in Illinois.

The field sobriety and breath tests gather evidence of impairment and give the police officer probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. Although refusing to take these chemical tests may still lead to a DUI arrest, a DUI criminal defense attorney may have a better chance of challenging the DUI arrest itself and/or the criminal charge of DUI at trial. Unlike the evidentiary breathalyzer test administered at the police station, there’s no potential loss of driving privileges for refusing to take the field sobriety tests. And, thus, there’s reason to consent to take field sobriety tests.

Can You Get DUI without Getting Pulled Over?

No, you can’t be pulled over if there’s probable cause to verify your alcohol levels. To be pulled over for drunk driving and even arrested, a police officer must pull you over under reasonable suspicion. Also, the police officer must perform preliminary alcohol screening, field sobriety, and other tests that require face-to-face interaction.

A driver pulled over to the side of the road by a police vehicle.

What Are My Legal Rights in a Traffic Stop?

If you’ve been pulled over for a traffic stop, you have the right to:

Remain Silent

Although you need to identify yourself to the law enforcement officer and to provide your driver license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to the police, you don’t have to answer any traffic stop questions about what you were doing before you were stopped or make any admissions of fault or guilt.

Refuse Consent to a Traffic Stop Search

If the officer asks to search your vehicle, you don’t have to consent to a search. However, the police officer has legal grounds to conduct a search even without your consent, especially if he or she sees contraband in plain view in your car or following a canine sniff.

Ask Why You’re Being Pulled Over, Ticketed, or Arrested

If you’re ticketed or arrested, you can ask the officer what traffic offense or criminal violation you’re being cited or arrested for.

Speak With an Attorney if You’re Detained or Arrested

If you’re detained or arrested at a traffic stop, and the police wish to question you, you can contact and speak with a traffic attorney before answering questions.

When Should I Contact a Lawyer After Being Pulled Over in Illinois?

After being pulled over by the police in Illinois, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, especially if you plan to contest the traffic citation you received. If you were ticketed, you only have a few weeks before you must appear in court for a hearing. Once you are arrested for a traffic violation, it’s only a matter of a few hours before you’re arraigned.

The aggressive traffic attorneys at Chicago Traffic Lawyers can help you challenge your criminal charges and get a favorable outcome. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our criminal defense law firm today at (708) 465-1040 or chat with us online to learn how we can help.

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