What to Do (and Not to Do) If Stopped by Police in Illinois


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Many individuals experience the uncomfortable encounter of being stopped by police in Illinois. This is usually because the law enforcement officer claims that you have made some type of traffic violation. You may wind up with a ticket. This is bad enough, but it gets even worse for some.

Before some people realize it, a routine traffic stop for a minor traffic violation turns into an arrest for a serious violation of the law such as DUI, drug charges or weapon possession charges. It is important to understand your legal rights when stopped by law enforcement. The following is a list of things to do and not to do in the event that you are subject to a traffic stop.

Pull Over

If stopped by law enforcement, it is the law for you to pull over as quickly as you can safely do so. Pull over to a well-lit area on the right-hand side of the road. Begin slowing down and put on your blinker indicated your intent to pull over. Do not drive for many miles; make a stop when it is safe to do so.

Have Your Documents Ready

During every traffic stop, you can expect to be asked for certain documents. Have these documents saved in a safe location well before any stop. For example, you may have your insurance information and registration in your glove box and your driver’s license in your purse or wallet. Let the officer know when you are reaching for one of these documents.

Keep Your Hands in View

Keep your hands on the wheel or otherwise in plain sight. Avoid making any sudden movements that may cause a law enforcement officer to overreact.

Do not Admit Wrongdoing

You are not required to say that much to an officer other than your name. If you are arrested, anything that you say may be used against you, including an admission that you had a drink or where you said you were coming from. A law enforcement officer may also ask you if you know why you were pulled over. It is perfectly acceptable to say “no” because you do not specifically know the reason why the law enforcement officer pulled you over.

Be Polite

At all times during the exchange, be polite to the law enforcement officer. Acting in an aggressive manner can cause you to more likely be ticketed. Additionally, it can cause a law enforcement officer to respond in kind. He or she may have you arrested for resisting arrest or may order you to the ground. Treat the officer with kindness and respect and abide by all legal instructions.

Exit the Vehicle

If the law enforcement officer asks you to exit the vehicle, do so when requested. Do not make any sudden movements. Comply with the law enforcement officer’s requests after leaving the vehicle.

Refuse Tests

Law enforcement may ask you to take a test but make it sound more like an instruction. However, there are several tests in Illinois that you can lawfully refuse. For example, if a law enforcement officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, refuse to do so. These tests are geared to try to substantiate that you are impaired in some way, but they are flawed and subject to false positives. You may also choose to refuse to take a portable breathalyzer test, which is less reliable. If you are taken into custody and refuse to take a blood, breath or urine test, there may be possible consequences for this type of refusal. Talk to a lawyer if at all possible to weigh the pros and cons of refusing these tests.

Do Not Consent to a Search

A law enforcement officer generally requires a warrant before he or she can search your property. However, an exception to the warrant requirement is if the property owner consents to the search. You can be polite while still conveying that you do not agree for him or her to search the vehicle.

Do Not Resist Arrest

Even if you have not done anything wrong, do not resist arrest. Resisting arrest can result in injury to yourself. It also gives the prosecutor legitimate grounds to arrest you even if the underlying charge is bogus. Law enforcement officers in Illinois may have cameras equipped to their vehicle or person, so this resistance could later be used as evidence against you.

Protect Your Right to Remain Silent

If you are arrested, simply state that you are invoking your right to remain silent.

Ask for a Lawyer

If you are arrested, ask to speak to a lawyer. Do not discuss anything with law enforcement. A lawyer can review the evidence against you and lodge an effective defense against it.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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