What Should I Do if I’m Pulled Over by the Police?
In most situations where a driver is pulled over by the police, the situation isn’t significantly
worrisome. The officer may want to inform you that you have a light out or inform you that you
forgot to renew your tags. Some situations are far more serious, and drivers should be aware of
the proper response in these situations.
In Arizona, a growing trend has emerged: DUI arrests continue to rise. According to the Office of
Highway Safety, arrests have increased each year since 2003. As an Arizona driver, it is important
to know your rights. The following tips may be helpful if you are pulled over by the police.
1. Be Calm and Courteous.
Upon seeing lights or hearing sirens, signal and pull over to the far right-hand side, so as to allow the
officer plenty of room to approach your vehicle. If the officer has reason to believe you’re attempting
to evade him or you’re taking your time to pull over, you run the risk of raising suspicion of
wrongdoing. Pulling over immediately will set the foundation for a positive interaction with the officer.
Once stopped, roll down your window all the way. Wait for the officer to ask for your paperwork
(license, insurance, and registration). Don’t reach for anything until you’re instructed to do so. It’s
always helpful to inform the officer that you need to retrieve something from your wallet, your center
console, or your glovebox. Tell the officer where you’re reaching and what you’re reaching for.
2. Keep It Short.
For basic traffic stops, it is best to keep answers brief and non-committal. For example, if an officer
asks if you know why you were stopped, answer, “No.” If you are asked if you know how fast you
were going, reply, “Yes, I do.”
It doesn’t give a great first impression if you approach the question with an admission of guilt. If you
say you know why you were pulled over, you’re admitting that you’ve done something wrong. If the
officer insinuates that you were speeding, don’t say you had no idea how fast you were going. What
you’re implying is that you weren’t paying attention to posted speed limits while you were driving.
As an Arizona driver, you are legally obligated to submit to a blood and/or breath test as a condition
of having a driver’s license. If an officer suspects that you are under the influence of a substance, it
is best to cooperate.
Prior to these tests, an officer may ask you a series of questions. If you are unsure or uncomfortable
answering these questions, you don’t have to. You’re only required to submit to the test. You aren’t
required to provide a statement. You can politely decline to answer while agreeing to submit to the
Don’t adopt an aggressive or defensive attitude. Don’t begin to create a story or retell the events of
your night. Saying as little as possible is always in your favor. If you’re asked to submit to a breath
test, all you need to say is “I’m willing to take a breath test” in response to any questions.
If you have a phone number for your attorney handy, you have more options for how to navigate this
4. Be Prepared.
Always keep the number—preferably a cell phone number—of your attorney close at hand. You can
keep this number in your wallet with your license and/or with your proof of insurance and
If you are unsure how to answer an officer’s questions, especially in regards to alcohol, it is best to
calmly “invoke Miranda.” An officer will read you your rights, including the right to an attorney. Inform
the officer that you would like to call your attorney, who will counsel you on the best course of action.
5. Be Proactive.
Print this list of tips and keep it in your car in the event that you’ll need a reminder. While it’s great to
have this list when you need it, it’s far better not to need the list at all. The best defense is a good
offense, and mindful driving practices will go a long way in preventing Arizona motorists from
Pay attention to speed limit signs, and avoid drinking and driving. If you have any doubt in your mind
about where your level of intoxication may be in regards to the legal limit, it’s far cheaper to Uber
home than it is to pay attorney fees and encounter exorbitant expenses that come as a result of
fighting a DUI case or being charged with a DUI.
If you’re out with people and everyone has been drinking, you can split the fare and take a ride share
to the same location where everyone can sleep it off. The establishment you drank at would likely be
happy to allow you to leave your car in the parking lot overnight if it means you aren’t making an
unsafe decision. Let a staff member know and leave a note on your windshield.
Even if your car gets towed, the consequences are significantly less severe (and extraordinarily less
expensive) than the consequences of driving under the influence.
If You’ve Already Been Pulled Over
Arizona has some of the strictest laws and highest fines for DUIs, speeding, criminal speeding, and
racing in the country. Failing to secure adequate and competent legal representation will often lead
to the full weight of these consequences. This isn’t a risk you can afford to take financially, and it
isn’t a risk you can afford to take with your freedom and your future.
If you have been pulled over by the police and charged with a crime, call our office for a free
consultation. Elias Damianakos is a former prosecutor. He has a unique understanding of both sides
of the legal process for people charged with crimes relating to DUI or traffic. Although it isn’t always
possible to completely fight these charges, it is always possible to fight for a fair and reasonable
outcome. Don’t take your chances. Give us a call.