What to Do If You Get Pulled Over by a Cop

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, who recently died tragically after three days in a Texas jail. A video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety captured a portion of the confrontation between Bland and a police officer after she was pulled over on July 10 for a routine traffic stop. Perhaps most striking is how quickly the situation escalated, leading to the forcible arrest of Bland, and culminating in her untimely demise. It’s also a reminder of how important it is to know your legal rights, and what is and is not permissible when you are pulled over by a police officer.

There’s the law—what is legally permissible for the police officer and the motorist to do. And then there’s the sad reality of how such encounters with the police sometimes play out in practice. Given that reality, there are some things to keep in mind in order to try to prevent the situation from becoming contentious or dangerous. To be clear, as law-enforcement professionals, the police should be well-trained to de-escalate and diffuse interactions with the public whenever possible, particularly since most people don’t enjoy being pulled over, and especially in light of the already contentious relationship between the police and communities of color across the country. But here are some things for all of us to consider:

1. You have the right to remain silent. That is true whether you’ve just been temporarily detained or formally arrested. There are some instances, like during a traffic stop, where you must provide your license, registration, insurance, and name, when asked. And there are some states where you are required to answer basic identifying questions (name and address) by the police. But you’re not required to give a statement beyond that. You can simply say, “I choose not to answer that question.”

Read more on Time.com: http://time.com/3968875/sanda-bland-pulled-over-by-a-cop/


View comments (23)
Read the Terms of Use


do I have these same rights as a white person???




not a chance


You'll be able to say, "Thanks for the warning, officer".


Mr. Williamson,

Regarding #2 in your article (Search of person and/or vehicle) You may want to remember Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

James Hopper

Good information here, but I am surprised that you did not touch on the issue that led to Sandra Bland's arrest, namely her refusal to get out if her car when asked to do so. Was she wrong to do this? She would probably be alive today if she had just complied with the officer's request. Her combative responses led to her arrest, not her traffic violation.


Bending over for the gods in blue doesn't always help. Thomas Jennings was beaten by the police for being suspected of stealing pizza with no evidence on hand. Raising your hands in surrender now means flailing your arms to the whitest in society.

Anyone who watches the Bland traffic video can plainly see the cop wanted to provoke her. The arresting officer sped up on her, forcing her to change to the slow lane. She failed to signal when changing lanes. He set her up for a fall. She did not like getting a ticket and did not roll over like White America is prone to do. The law enforcement officer asked her a question and she answered him. He did not like her honest answer to a question he asked. He wanted to pick a fight and got what he wanted. You have a right to smoke in your own vehicle. If you're afraid of a cigarette you should not be wearing the badge. In fact, if the trooper had stayed at his job with the ice cream company, society would be better and Bland would probably be alive. Manhandling a woman and saying 'good' when she complains about him hitting her head on the ground is no way for a public servant to act. Anyone who defends this behavior is beneath understanding right and wrong. If the people want a police state, they need wait no longer.

Both incidents are on video.


you a stupid bitch, mf her death has nothing to do with the incident its self. them racists pieces of shit killed her.


Oh great. On my brother's birthday. My brother lived in Texas, and I know how Texas police act. They ALL act like that in Texas, with big everything including egos and their phrase "don't mess with Texas" and it's like you want to tell them 'Get the hell over yourself, nobody's even thinking of you.'
I'm sorry but even when I was fully Republican I thought TEXAS' brand of Republican was so overboard you could drown in it.
The only thing I agreed with was their death penalty carry-through but that was before I found out some unlovely information about what they're doing with that and now I'm not as gung-ho about it. I happen to believe that cruel & unusual sentencing is justifiable when it's a cruel & unusual homicide, as the Supreme Court has already ruled the same. But not for the gd color of someone's skin. I believed Ted Bundy and John Gacy deserved it as much as anybody. I think it across the board but before I saw a petition circulated by Harry Belafonte, I honestly had no idea the court could get a psychiatrist to say to the jury that "blacks are more likely to kill people" and that the statement would get the defendant the death penalty. It's not one of the qualifiers. I knew a Capital Offenses attorney and he told us what the criteria for capital punishment is, and that WASN'T one of the conditions. So I signed the petition to stop him from getting capital punishment, even though I recall that he killed his girlfriend & I have no use for people who do that.
I don't believe I'm unreasonable but I sincerely did not even know that happened at this particular trial and to this day I can't figure out what the hell the judge was thinking.

Darren Chaker

I am Darren Chaker and was put in jail for blogging about police. The ACLU filed an Amicus in the case now pending before the 9th Cir. See the Amicus brief here, ACLU,


Stay Informed