INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 29, 2015)– With the increased use of police body cameras and cell phone video, interactions between the public and law enforcement are being recorded and scrutinized more than ever.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for police departments to do more to build trust in their communities.
FOX59 is taking you through a routine traffic stop, showing you what police do and why, and also what you’re allowed to do under the law.
A traffic stop in Virginia Beach, Virginia turned violent back in March as an officer stopped an 18-year-old girl and her 17-year-old friend. According to the victim, the officer said he smelled marijuana.
Soon, an officer tazed the 17-year-old, and the 18-year-old said she believes police tried to delete video recording on her phone.
Later in April, prosecutors there announced no charges would be filed against the officer involved.
It is evidence that traffic stops are unpredictable for both police and the public.
“When you walk up to that car, you need to expect the unexpected,” said Lieutenant Randy Aspenson, with the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.
Aspenson trains future officers at the ILEA headquarters in Plainfield.
“There’s a lot of people that believe that they don’t have to comply with law enforcement,” he said.
Aspenson simulated a traffic stop with FOX59 reporter Kendall Downing.
“If you would, please place your hands on the steering wheel for me there at the top, it’s for your safety as well as mine,” Aspenson said as he first approached the car.
He said when pulled over, an officer will always want to see the driver’s hands.
“It’s not the gun in the car that’s going to kill me. It’s the hands that go to the gun,” he said.
Next, you might be asked why you were speeding or ran a red light.
“Can you tell me, is there any reason for your speed today,” Aspenson asked Downing.
But, you don’t have to answer that question. You do, however, have to act when police ask for identifying information.
“The law states that if you have your driver’s license in possession, you do have to present it to the officer,” he said, “If you don’t comply with that, you’ve just turned that, the violator themselves, have turned that into a class C misdemeanor.”
When producing that information, officers will want to know where it is located on you or where it’s placed in the car. Aspenson said that is a request made for safety’s sake.
“We want to forecast the hand movement,” he said.
Aspenson said you can record cell phone video of traffic stops. In fact, officers now are taught to expect it.
“There’s no reason to stop them, as long as they’re not interfering with you doing your job,” he said.
“People should be aware of what their rights are and how to assert them,” said Chris Eskew, an attorney in Indianapolis, with Eskew Law.
Eskew said officers can’t search your vehicle without your permission, unless they can prove probable cause to do so.
“If he wants to search because you’re nervous, he’s going to need consent to search your vehicle. If he smells marijuana coming from your car, there’s probable cause to believe there are drugs in your car. He can search your car at that point and time,” said Eskew.
Other than producing identifying information, Eskew reminds you that you don’t have to say anything that would incriminate yourself.
“If you do decide to raise your Fifth Amendment right, you may have to re-raise that numerous times, if they keep asking you questions. The other option you have is to tell an officer you would like to speak to an attorney before answering any questions. And that would stop any questions at that point and time,” he said.
Aspenson said an officer’s tone is key. They are taught to be respectful.
“Be polite, but be professional and tactical at the same time,” he said.
He also reminds if you have an issue with the way you were treated during a stop, you always have the right to file a formal complaint.
And you, the driver, having a good attitude with officers, may help your case, ensuring you know your rights.
“If you treat them well, you’re more apt to be treated well yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean complying but acknowledge they have a job to do,” said Eskew.
Law enforcement officers can pull you over in a traffic stop and then ask you to get out of the car and come back to them. That’s a practice that has been held up in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union provides more tips below so you know your rights if you’re stopped by the police.
- Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.
- Don’t get into an argument with the police. Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
- Keep your hands where the police can see them.
- Don’t run. Don’t touch any police officer.
- Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
- Don’t complain on the scene or tell the police they’re wrong or that you’re going to file a complaint.
- Do not make any statements regarding the incident.
- Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
- Remember officers’ badge & patrol car numbers.
- Write down everything you remember.
- If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
- If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. The ACLU hotline is 1-877-6-PROFILE.