What to do if you’re pulled over by law enforcement

Getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer can be a difficult experience, but following some simple guidelines will greatly enhance safety for motorists and law enforcement. The Wisconsin State Patrol’s Novem- ber Law of the Month reminds motorists of their legal responsibilities and offers guidelines on what to do when stopped by law enforcement.

State law (346.19) requires drivers to pull over immediately when they observe emergency lights approaching from either direction. Move out of the lane of traffic and stop as near as possible on the right-hand shoulder of the roadway.

“When pulled over by a police officer, the first thing drivers and passengers should do is try to stay calm,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Ryan Chaffee of the Northeast Region-Fond du Lac Post. “Keep in mind that the top priority for law enforcement is the safety and well-being of the travelling public. Police officers are well-trained in handling traffic stops, but there are several things motorists can do to help things go as smoothly as possible.”

This includes:

Place your vehicle in park. Turn off the ignition and put the keys on the dashboard in front of you.

Do not exit the vehicle (unless asked to do so). At night or during low-light conditions, turn on your vehicle’s interior dome light. The officer will likely shine a bright light into your vehicle. This is to keep you and the officer safe.

Place your hands in plain sight, preferably on top of the steering wheel. All vehicle occupants should keep movements to a minimum. Refrain from reaching into your clothing, purse, glove box, console, etc. to locate your license, registration or insurance cards. Wait for the officer to request such items.

When the officer arrives at your window (this could be the driver or passenger side), comply with any orders. Provide clear and concise answers to the officer’s questions.

Be polite and patient. The officer may need time to verify your identification, etc. If you are given a citation, don’t argue. You will have an opportunity before a judge or court to express any concerns.

“Following these steps will help keep everyone safe, and in most cases, will get you back on your journey as quickly as possible,” Chaffee said.

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