SIDNEY — You’re driving down the road and look in your rear-view mirror. In it, you see the flashing lights of a law enforcement vehicle. What should you do?
The first thing you should do, said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, is to remain calm and pull the vehicle over as soon as you can.
“Most folks will get excited when they see the flashing lights,” said Lenhart in his weekly interview. “They think that they’ve done something wrong.
“But the officer, deputy or trooper could be pulling them over for a minor traffic infraction, or it could be a case of mistaken identity. Or the person could have witnessed something that the officer wants to talk to them about.”
The driver, said Lenhart, should pull their vehicle over as “soon as they find a spot that is safe.”
“They should use their turn signal and pull their vehicle off the right side of the road as possible,” he said. “The driver should not get out of the car. Let the officer come up to the car.”
Make sure, said Lenhart, your hands stay in view of the officer.
Lenhart said the officer usually knows when they approach the vehicle if he/she is going to give the driver a citation or a warning.
“Your actions and attitude may talk yourself into a ticket from the officer,” said Lenhart. “You should remain calm, respectful and watch your body actions.
“And remember, what you say an be used against you if you do get a ticket and end up in court,” he said.
After pulling the vehicle over to the side of the road, Lenhart said the driver should turn the vehicle off. It it’s at night, they should turn the lights on in the interior of the vehicle.
“You should never run from the officer after being pulled over,” said Lenhart. “Don’t be resistant to what they are saying.”
Lenhart said if the officer sees anything in the vehicle that might be against the law — such as beer and open beer cans or contraband — they might ask to search the vehicle.
“If the driver (or occupants) act suspicious, or get overly excited, the officer might think you’re trying to hide something,” said Lenhart. “If the officer sees something, he’ll ask you to get out of the vehicle and will pat you down.
“You shouldn’t make a statement,” he said. “Don’t defend yourself and watch what you are saying. Remember the officer’s name or his badge number.”
If you’re involved in a crash, said Lenhart, make sure you get the phone numbers for any witnesses to the crash.
“If you’re at fault — speeding or a crash — don’t admit to it. The place to talk about it is in court if you’re cited,” said Lenhart. “The officer will tell you what he or she stopped you for.”
Lenhart said if an officer asks to search your vehicle, “you have the right to say no.”
The Plain View Doctrine, said Lenhart, allows an officer to seize evidence and contraband that is in plain view without a search warrant.
These guidelines, said Lenhart, are something all law enforcement officers believe in.
“But this is not just from the law enforcement prospective,” said Lenhart. “I took this from the American Civil Liberties Union website. I don’t have any problems with their guidelines. All we want is the cooperation of the citizens.”
In closing, Lenhart said, “Be courteous, be kind, be polite. Work with the officer for both of your safety.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.