Los Angeles, CA

What to do if a sneaky cop pulls you over in Los Angeles

Jano le Roux

It is important to understand your rights if you are pulled over by the police in Los Angeles or anywhere you go. It’s also important that you react in a manner that doesn’t make things worse. Keep your cool, be courteous, and let the police do the talking, replying only when necessary.

Switch off your engine, pull down your window all the way, turn on your interior light if it’s dark, and stay in your vehicle until the police officer tells you to get out with your hands on the steering wheel. Before you start looking for your license and registration, wait until the officer asks for them.

A Los Angeles police officer pulling over a vehicle.Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The vast majority of motorists in Los Angeles have been — or will be — pulled over by a police officer at some time while driving. The majority of traffic stops are for minor offenses, and most of these encounters conclude with a warning rather than a ticket or an arrest. However, if a law enforcement officer thinks a driver has committed or is committing a crime other than a traffic infraction, what starts off as a normal stop may rapidly turn into a severe scenario.

Even if you know you have done nothing illegal, being pulled over by the police may be frightening. If you have committed a more severe crime, you may be concerned about an officer issuing you a ticket or perhaps detaining you. It’s essential to remember, however, that the officer is probably anxious as well.

A Los Angeles police officer’s work is very dangerouss. Even a routine traffic stop has the potential to be fatal. If you’re stopped at night, switch off your ignition, keep your hands visible, and turn on the dome light in your car to put the officer at ease. If an officer does not believe you are a danger, he or she is far more likely to give you a warning.

Suspicious conduct may rapidly exacerbate a police officer's encounter. An officer will be considerably calmer and more willing to let you go with a warning if you make it obvious that you do not represent a danger.

If you are stopped by law enforcement officials in Southern California who suspect you of committing a crime, it is critical that you understand your legal rights. If a traffic check results in an arrest, it’s critical to contact a skilled Long Beach DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you may draw the notice of the police while driving:

A candy wrapper, a cup or meal wrapper, or a cigarette butt were among the items you threw away.  
Your license plate is either expired or incorrectly attached to your car.  
There is a problem with a headlight, turn signal, tail light, or brake light.  
Police will almost always pull you over if you are speeding or driving recklessly.  
Something is hanging from your rearview mirror or your windshield is blocked.

You have the following rights if you are pulled over for any reason:

  1. You do not have to answer inquiries about where you are going or coming from, what you are doing, or where you reside if you exercise your right to remain quiet. You must, however, inform the officer if you want to use your right to stay quiet.
  2. The right to refuse permission to a search of your belongings: While refusing consent will not prevent police officers from conducting a search, it will assist protect your rights in future legal procedures. Police have the authority to pat down your clothes if they believe you are carrying a weapon.
  3. The right to an attorney: If you can’t afford a counsel, you have the option of having a government-appointed lawyer represent you.

Reasonable reasons for a search or a traffic stop are known as probable cause. It is reasonable to assume that a crime has been committed or that particular property is linked to a crime based on known facts. For an officer to conduct an arrest without a warrant, search without a warrant, or take property that the police think is evidence of a crime, probable cause must exist. Police are not permitted to stop you at random to search your vehicle for drugs or other evidence of a crime. To pull you over, they must have a probable reason, such as speeding, expired tags, or a burned-out brake light.

Never consent to a Los Angeles cop’s questions

It’s more than Ok to respond with anything like, “Officer, I’ve been advised never to answer questions at a traffic stop.”

The sneaky trick Los Angeles cops use to search your car at a traffic stop

In most instances, an officer can only lawfully search your vehicle in two ways if you haven’t been detained yet. They have two options: they can search because:

  1. They are in possession of a valid warrant.  
  2. You authorize them to do so.

Officers, on the other hand, will not ask you whether you consent. Instead, they get sneaky! They’ll inquire as to what’s in your trunk (or rear seat), followed by the question: “Do you mind if I look?” 

If you respond with a “sure officer”, you’ve now granted them permission to search if you tell them they may. This is something you should never do, even if you think your vehicle is completely “clean.”

Say instead:

“Officer, I have a rule that I respectfully do not consent to searches.”

Officers may use their flashlights to peek through the windows even if you haven’t given them permission. If they see anything suspicious in plain sight, they have reason to investigate more and even search the vehicle.

Bonus tip: Never apologize to an L.A. cop, even if the cop is nice

In many cases, an apology could be seen as an admission of guilt that you did, in fact, break the law. Rather be polite in your tone of voice and ask the officer if she would let you off on a warning this time.

What are some of the dirtiest tricks cops have used on you in L.A.?

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