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Pulled over? Know your rights during a traffic stop

OKLAHOMA CITY — Police say there is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop.

They have deadly force and the law on their side, and a rough arrest has the potential to end very badly for a suspect.

Last week in Moore, Luis Rodriguez got into a scuffle with officers and died during his arrest.

Last month, deaf driver Pearl Pearson got sideways with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and ended up with serious injuries he suffered as authorities were trying to take him into custody.

What are your rights when you get pulled over by police?

Scott Adams, a local defense attorney, says you should always comply with officers, but do not consent to a search.

Adams advises, the less you say the better.

Adams said, “My position is to comply with lawful commands, give up the information they want such as your driver’s license, insurance information, registration and that’s really it.”

YouTube has dozens of videos showcasing officers pushing the legal limits.

According to Capt. Dexter Nelson, with the Oklahoma City Police Department, being difficult at a traffic stop makes you seem more suspicious to police.

Nelson said, “People pay us to look for suspicious activity. They pay us to look for crime and people aren’t walking around with sweatshirts that say criminal.”

Safety experts recommend the following:

  • Keep your hands in plain view
  • Do not make any sudden movements
  • Eliminate all distractions during a stop
  • Never get out of the car unless asked by an arresting officer

Nelson said, “[An officer] understands that you’re going to have a little anxiety about the stop. What we’re looking for are things that are way out of the norm, like people getting out of the car and wanting to separate themselves from the car.”

At any hour of the day, there are roughly 150 police officers patrolling Oklahoma City streets.

In the event of a traffic stop, officers are trained to pay closest attention to a subject’s hands.

“Officers are trained to treat every traffic stop as a potential threat because they don’t know what they’re stopping. You want to keep your hands where the officer can see them because hands are what kill,” Capt Nelson said. “Hands are what shoot officers, stab officers and things like that.”

Drivers always have the right to ask for a supervisor during a traffic stop.

Oklahoma City’s policy requires a patrol officer to call their supervisor, if requested.

Some drivers are tempted to argue with an officer about the merits of a stop.

Police recommend saving your discussion for the courtroom.

Capt. Nelson said, “We don’t want people to get into confrontations with officers out in the field. We want them to comply with requests if the request is reasonable. And if it’s a matter of safety, you absolutely need to do that because the officer is asking you to do that for his safety and for your safety and those around you.”

When it comes to a Driving Under the Influence stop, attorney Scott Adams would never recommend submitting to a breathalyzer test, if you have been drinking any amount of alcohol.

“All a breathalyzer is going to do in my opinion, if you’ve been drinking is give them evidence to convict you in court,” Adams said. “So I wouldn’t do it. There may be consequences for your license and we’ll deal with your license later. There’s ways to modify that and things of that nature.”

Also, Adams always recommends taking a video of the interaction on your cell phone camera.

“I think it would be a pretty good idea any time you’re pulled over if you have the ability to do that. I would, so you can document anything that has transpired,” Adams said. “They shouldn’t have anything to hide and 99 percent of the time they don’t. That’s why I would try to record any encounter like that just simply so there’s not any squirrely stuff going on.”

Oklahoma City police are trained to behave as if every interaction is recorded.

Nelson said, “We know now if someone is filming us, and they’re in a place where they have a legal right to be, we can’t do anything about that.”

OCPD encourages all citizens to make an official complaint if an officer was unprofessional during a stop.

Click here to make a complaint about an Oklahoma City Police Officer


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