If you are stopped by the police, you may have questions as to why you’ve been stopped. Although the delay might be inconvenient for you, if you are stopped, the officer believes there is a reason (reasonable suspicion) to ask you some questions. Many of these stops are not officer initiated. The most common reasons that cause an officer to stop someone are as follows:
- You might be one of only a few people walking around in the area of a crime that was recently committed.
- Your clothing or description might be similar or identical to that worn by the suspect of a crime.
- A citizen might have called 911 complaining about your presence or that you looked or acted suspicious.
- Someone might have pointed you out to the officer. You might be behaving in a way that the officer considers suspicious.
- Police officers do not want to detain you any longer than necessary. Once the officer is able to determine that you are not the person that he/she is looking for, the officer will release you, thank you for your assistance, and return to duty.
In All Police Encounters:
- Avoid making sudden movements (for your wallet, for your coat, toward your waistband, etc.) until you inform the officer of your intentions and he/she has time to respond.
- Do not touch the officer or violate the officer’s personal body space. Keep 2-3 feet from the police officer.
- Remain calm and avoid arguing. If you are uncooperative and refuse to answer reasonable questions, the encounter will probably last longer than necessary.
- Comply first. Do what the officer asks you to do, then ask any question you might have. You will receive an explanation from the officer or the officer’s supervisor as to the reason for the stop.
There are times when members of the public have contact with a police officer and they come away with feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction. The Lynchburg Police Department does not support or condone police misconduct of any type. In our experience, we have learned that those negative feelings are often a result of not knowing the reason(s) why an officer acted in a certain way. It is our goal to ensure you understand why you were stopped after the interaction is complete.
What to Do if You are Pulled Over by the Police
- As soon as you notice the police emergency lights, pull your vehicle over to a safe location immediately. Although you may not know the reason, you should pull over right away. You may have committed a traffic violation or there may be a problem with your vehicle of which you may not be aware.
- Remain in your vehicle while the officer approaches you. Exiting your vehicle does not help the officer and may be perceived as a threat. The officer will ask you to exit if needed. As a courtesy, turn on your interior light at night to assist the officer in seeing inside your vehicle.
- Keep your hands easily observable by placing them on the steering wheel. Do not reach for the glove box or under your seat. This action may cause the officer concern that you are reaching for a weapon. Keep in mind that the officer does not know you, or what your intentions might be.
- Give your operators license and vehicle registration to the officer if asked to do so. Virginia law requires that this information be provided to the police officer if you are stopped.
- Do not become argumentative, disorderly, or abusive. If an officer has already written a summons, it cannot be voided at that time. If you believe you have been unfairly treated, do not start an argument on the side of the road. Your best alternative is to share your concerns with a police supervisor or to the court that will hear evidence in your case.
- Even though you might have no intentions of causing the officer harm, officers will probably maintain a protective posture until they feel that there is no risk of confrontation or injury. Remember, a police officer’s job requires him or her to have regular encounters with dangerous people. As far as police officers are concerned, there are no “routine” pedestrian or traffic stops. Every citizen contact that the officer makes has potential for danger. All police officers know this fact: all citizens should be aware of it as well.