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Know Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

  • You may have heard that if you’re pulled over by a police officer in Pennsylvania, you are not legally required to comply with every request or demand. But what if the officer asks you to get out of your vehicle? Supreme Court rulings held that an officer who pulls you over for allegedly violating a traffic law can require you and any passengers to get out of the vehicle.

    However, knowing what to do in the event of a police stop is not always clear.

    If you’re pulled over, what you say and do can dictate what happens next and it can also influence any criminal charges that might be filed against you. If you see blue lights in your rearview mirror, it’s important to understand police traffic stop procedures along with your rights and duties under the law.

    Should You Get Out of the Car?

    If you are pulled over, remain in your car unless the officer requests that you exit. In addition, you should wait to reach into your pocket, purse or glove compartment for your wallet, license and registration until the officer tells you to do so. As the officer walks to your car, it is also a good idea to have both hands on the steering wheel, letting the officer know that you are ready to comply.

    Getting out of the vehicle prematurely or reaching for items in the car could be seen as signs that you might pose a threat to the officer.

    If the officer asks you to get out of the car, however, you should do so. By not getting out of the car when instructed, you might be viewed by the officer as a threat of imminent danger.

    An officer who believes you could pose a danger has the legal right to perform a pat-down searchoutside your clothing. The officer legally may retrieve any item encountered during the search that feels like a weapon.

    If there is a reasonable belief that you might be dangerous and might have weapons elsewhere, the officer can search inside your vehicle, including in the passenger area where weapons might be hidden.