What to do if you are stopped by police

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2001

APD Assistant Chief of Police
At some point in your life, the police for one reason or another will probably stop you. Most of us will get stopped at least once in our lifetime for a traffic violation. Those of us who are less fortunate will be stopped for more serious reasons. Such experiences do not have to be like nightmares. How you and the officer relate to each other may well have an impact on how the situation is ultimately resolved.
If the officer has detained you, he may have done so for a variety of reasons. A crime may have just occurred in the vicinity, and you fit the general description of the suspect. He may have stopped you for a violation of a vehicle code. A neighbor may have called in a complaint regarding you. Whatever the case, the officer has the right to investigate you. Your cooperation can only be beneficial to you and the final disposition on the matter.
Any officer in Atmore can order you to pull over at ant time if they suspect that you are in violation of the Alabama Motor Vehicle Laws. The officer will usually request your driver's license, insurance and your vehicle registration. If you find yourself in this situation, be cooperative. If this occurs at night, it would he helpful if you turned on your dome light so the officer is less likely to misinterpret your actions.
If the officer chooses to cite you for a traffic violation, be mindful of the tone of your protests. Driving is a privilege, not a right. If you are unnecessarily rude and disrespectful in your manner, the officer may choose to exercise his option of citing you for additional, legitimate equipment and/or other moving violations. This is legal. If you believe that the officer has erred, the proper forum to contest the citation is in court. Contrary to the opinion of some, the court does not always side with the officer. Refusing to sign the citation as a form of protest is not advisable. Refusing to sign will certainly result in your arrest.
If you do not have your driver's license in your possession, and you cannot produce an acceptable alternate picture identification, the officer can take you to jail. The officer may question passengers in your vehicle to determine your identity or drive you to a nearby residence where someone may know you. It helps if you memorize your driver's license number.
If an officer who is investigating a crime stops you, the rules are different than in traffic situations. You can easily become the focus of an officer's attention if certain variables are present:
You are running in an area where a crime has just been reported, and you fit the general description of the suspect.
You are hanging around individuals who are currently under police investigation.
You are in an area where the officer thinks no one should be, day or night.
You are acting in a way that the officer interprets as suspicious, and you act even more suspiciously when you see that the officer has spotted you.
You are verbally evasive upon contact, or you give false or conflicting explanations when questioned.
You have property in your possession that the officer thinks is stolen.
Someone has pointed you out to the officer as being responsible for a crime.
If you fall into one of these categories, the officer has a legal right to detain you on the spot and question you. Do not challenge the officer's authority on the street. If there is a problem with the officer, contact his supervisor or someone in authority at the police department.
If you and your significant other are engaging in a domestic dispute, the police may be called in to resolve the immediate problem.
If the officers are summoned by a neighbor, or by one of the combatants, the officer has the right to enter your home to investigate the disturbance. If you refuse to open your door and they can clearly hear a disturbance within the premises, they can force entry into your home. If you find yourself being questioned by the police due to a family disturbance, try to contain your emotions and cooperate with the officers. They are there to help you resolve your immediate problems. They prefer not to make an arrest if it can be avoided.
Remember, if stopped by the police for any reason, remain calm and cooperative. Show the officer the same respect and consideration you expect of others and of the officer.

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