It happens to the best of us: we get pulled over by a police officer, state trooper or sheriff’s deputy for not following the rules of the road. When it does happen, it is scary and embarrassing and could mean serious consequences. I asked two experts to answer common questions and make recommendations for what to do and not do during a traffic stop.
Adam Owensby (photographed above) has been an assistant public defender with the Mecklenburg Public Defenders for one year. Owensby offers answers to common traffic violation questions:
(1) If stopped for suspected DWI, should you refuse to give a breath sample?
The short answer is no. If you do, you will automatically and immediately lose your license for a year. The police can, without your consent, request for a blood sample to be drawn.
(2) Will the police officer make you say the alphabet backwards if stopped for suspicion of DWI?
No. They may make you say it forward, perhaps beginning with a letter other than A and ending with a letter other than Z, or make you say the whole thing without singing it. They may make you count backwards.
(3) Will you know you have been pulled over for suspicion of DWI (Driving While Impaired)?
Yes. You will know pretty quickly, because the officer will utter the magic words, “Have you had anything to drink today/tonight?” If you hear something like this, you can assume that’s the reason they stopped you in the first place.
(4) Can officers lie to me?
Yes. They can, and often do, saying things like “Hey, I want to help you, but you have to be straight with me, okay?” Save your talking for your attorney. It is possible to be polite and cooperative, while insisting that you want to only speak with your attorney.
(5) Is speeding a crime?
It can be. Speeding 15 mph above the posted limit is a class 3 misdemeanor, which, if convicted of, is a criminal charge that will remain on your record permanently.
(6) Is a police officer required to tell me why they stopped me?
Yes. An officer must have either “reasonable suspicion” that “crime is afoot,” or the more popular “probable cause” that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be, committed.
(7) Is it illegal to have weed on you?
Yes. However, if you have under a half of an ounce of marijuana in your possession it is impossible to be sentenced to any jail time under the law in North Carolina. It is a fine-only situation under the statute, but an officer still has the authority to arrest you.
(8) Do you get that famous phone call if arrested?
Yes. If you are arrested, you will have access to phones once you are transported to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Law Enforcement Center.
Pro Tips: Interacting with a police officer
Officer Bradley Edwards (photographed above), #1334, has been with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for 23 years. He works in the Freedom Division. Officer Edwards suggests these tips if you are pulled over:
(1) Be honest
If your license has been revoked or you don’t have one, it is best to tell me right away than wait for me to find out.
(2) Play smart
There are tons of legitimate reasons to carry a gun. Tell us upfront that you are carrying a gun. Disagree politely, please. Calling me names, cursing, yelling and making threats about who you know doesn’t help your case. Don’t deny the obvious. If you have weed in your car, realize that I recognize it almost instantly by both smell and sight.
(3) Follow directions
If I ask you to get out of the car, just do it. If I say you are under arrest, just go along. Ask why and I’ll explain.
Charmeck website has a list of tips for what to do during a traffic stop.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed should not be considered legal advice for your specific situation.
Photos: Adam Owensby, Bradley Edwards