What Cops Can And Can't Do When They Pull You Over

Do you know what a cop is allowed and is not allowed to do when he or she pulls you over? Like most people, I do not. There seems to be an ever-present bubble of mystery and half-understanding surrounding what exactly cops are and are not allowed to do when they pull you over – and what you are and are not obligated to consent to. Personally, my lack of knowledge here is due to a combination of factors:

  1. I didn't get my license until I was 30. I studied for my driver's test by watching people drive on television and then listening to pustule-riddled teens yell at their moms for quizzing them at the DMV the day of my test. Until I nearly killed myself and everyone else on the highway, I thought that the blind spot of a car was "theoretical".
  2. While I am 89% a law-abiding individual, I have the guiltiest conscious in the world.

Add these things to a powerful, innate desire to cower in the face of authority figures, and you have got a person who would probably slap herself repeatedly in the face if a cop showed up and told me to do so. I live my life assuming that I am just minutes away from being arrested, interrogated, and thrown in jail for the rest of my miserable life. And not like, an Orange Is The New Black jail a real jail.

Which is to say that I, like so many people, am intimidating enough by cops, and blurry enough on the details of the law, that I would most likely consent to anything a cop asked me to do, or allow them to do anything they tried to do. This, clearly, is no way to keep yourself as protected by your rights as possible, something we should all try to do all the time.

All of which is why this infographic (courtesy of a pretty genius advertising move by a law firm) is insanely helpful if you, like me, fear cops to the point of stupidity and/or are not quite sure you've retained anything of actual use from driver's ed. If a cop wants to search your car, for example, they've got to have a reason to do. This kind of applies to everything that they do, which it makes a lot of sense, but might not be as clear in your mind when you're in the inherently tense situation of actually dealing with a police officer. Think about it: If they are just pulling you over for a speeding ticket, they are just as eager as you are to move on and get this embarrassing incident behind them. I mean, after all, no one likes watching a grown woman weep, offer the officers free range to search her car, all while the soundtrack to Frozen blasts in the background. No one.

Images: Getty Images; Courtesy of Minick Law