How can I stay safe when stopped by law enforcement?

Learn what you should do when stopped by law enforcement to stay safe and prevent further issues. Get some top advice for how to react smartly.

Law enforcement officers in California are given a very difficult job. They have to rely on their instincts and the information they have to ensure they keep the public safe and to protect themselves. Sometimes this can lead to encounters that are less than pleasant. It is imperative that individuals understand how to react when confronted or stopped by law enforcement to avoid such situations.

Information issues

When a person is first stopped by law enforcement, the chances are very good that nobody has all the information they need to proper appraise the situation. The person being stopped may not know why he or she is being stopped. The officer may not know who the person is, what his or her intentions are and whether he or she is dangerous. All this unknown information can become an issue if someone acts without thinking.

That is why PBS recommends staying calm at all times during your interaction. You may be a very peaceful person, but making sudden moves or lashing out could make the officer think you are dangerous and cause him or her to react. So, never try to run away, argue or provoke an officer. It is always best to stay calm and in control during the interaction.

Reacting badly

Many times, when someone is stopped by an officer, fear kicks in. This can make a person do things that are not reasonable, such as trying to get away or being difficult to deal with. Having an attitude and not listening to an officer is not a good idea. It will only provoke the officer to react more harshly. Remember the officer does not know all the facts and is reacting only on instinct to keep everyone in a situation safe.

Other tips

A person should try to put the officer at ease and not do anything that could startle the officer or put him or her on edge. They should always keep their hands visible and not reach for anything. It is also important to avoid arguing. It is better to remain quiet than to get into a disagreement.

The ACLU also suggests a person should get the officers badge number and be aware of their rights if arrested and evoke them, especially the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If you find yourself under arrest, then consider contacting the Law Office of John W. Noonan.