When encountering an Oklahoma City Police Officer in a traffic stop, it’s important to know your rights as well as theirs. Knowing what to expect and how to react is key for your safety and the safety of the officer. Police officers do a difficult and dangerous job. They are trained to approach every situation with caution until they feel it’s safe.
Every situation is different. How police respond and the outcome depends on many factors.
If Police Stop Your Car
- Pull over as soon as you safely can. If you’re unsure police are actually behind you, drive slower than the posted limit to a well lit, populated area before stopping. Oklahoma City Police Department cars are black and marked with the word “POLICE” in large white block letters on the sides. They have red and blue flashing lights. Some OCPD marked cars are still black and white.
- Don’t try to escape police in your car. Tyring to escape will result in your arrest and the impoundment of your vehicle. It’s dangerous and could cause injury or death.
- Don’t run. Running from police could result in your arrest.
- Stay in your car. Never get out of the car unless the officer tells you to. Turn off music, put down the phone and lower your window to speak to the officer. If you’re asked to get out of the car, cooperate, it’s for safety reasons.
- Always keep your hands visible to the officer. They are trained to look for suspicious movements and behavior. Don’t reach for anything without telling the officer what you’re reaching for and where it is.
- Comply with the officer’s requests, even if you disagree. Don’t argue about the officer’s actions or the law. Follow instructions. You can request to speak/complain to a supervisor later. Officers should explain reasons for their actions.
- If an officer issues you a citation, sign it. Your signature means you acknowledge your responsibility to pay or appear in court. Refusal to sign a citation could result in your arrest.
- An officer may be able to search your car without a warrant. If an officer has probable cause that you might be involved in a crime, he or she can search your car without a warrant. If you’re the driver/owner of the car and don’t want your car searched, politely tell the officer.
- If you’re suspected of driving under the influence - An officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test or submit a breath test for alcohol to determine if you’re impaired. You can refuse the test(s), but the officer must treat it as a failed test.
If You're Afraid
- Lower your window a few inches to communicate with the officer. The officer may ask you to lower it more to hear you better.
- You can ask the officer or call 911 if you want to speak to a supervisor, but you may have to wait until one is available.
- You can legally film or record police officers in public as long as your actions do not interfere with the officer’s duties. Set your device down and follow the officer’s instructions. Observers should stay back at a safe distance (determined by the officer).
Do I have to answer police questions during traffic stops?
Yes. You must answer common questions regarding your license and insurance. Officers may ask additional questions that may eliminate any suspicions. You do not have to answer questions that may incriminate you.
Do I have to provide identification?
Yes, if you’re operating any kind of vehicle on city streets, including riding mowers and bicycles. A valid driver’s license and minimum required insurance is needed for a motor vehicle.
Do I have to do what police tell me to do?
Yes. Officers will explain their actions if the situation allows. If you have a problem with an officer, ask to speak to a supervisor or call 911.
What is “reasonable suspicion?”
An officer can detain you if he has reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is based on common sense judgments and observations.
Making a Complaint
- Request to speak to a supervisor immediately, but continue to follow directions. You can complain later if a supervisor is not available.
- Don’t confront, argue or debate legal issues. Try to get the officer’s name and badge number.
- Don’t yell at or touch an officer aggressively, it could result in your arrest.
- Cooperation is the best way to resolve a situation quickly. Never resist an arrest even if you think the officer’s actions are wrong.