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Traffic stops: Do you know your rights?

Posted at 9:38 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 23:38:04-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Knowing what you should and should not do during a traffic stop can help stop the situation from escalating. 
 
Some traffic stops across the country have been wrapped in controversy recently after the simple stop turns into a violent or sometimes even deadly situation. 
 
In some cases, the officer is found to have used excessive force. However, in other cases, the actions of the driver are blamed. 
 
"I've had people scream and yell at me, carry on and say, 'You're ruining my life, you're going to make me lose my job, it's all your fault,'" said Sgt. Costaki Manoleas, who leads the Pima Co. Sheriff's Department's Motor Unit.
 
He said when people get upset like that, deputies are automatically suspicious that something else is going on. 
 
"If someone's going to argue with us they're generally impaired or they're trying to hide something," said Manoleas. 
 
The most important rule of a traffic stop is staying calm and cooperating with law enforcement. 
 
Other basic rules when an officer approaches your vehicle during a traffic stop are: turn down your radio, roll down your window, and keep your hands in plain sight.
 
Your hands do not have to be at "10 and 2" on your steering wheel, but somewhere the officer can see them and not fidgeting. 
 
Also, wait until they ask you to get your license, registration, and proof of insurance before reaching for them. Once the officer asks, you are legally required to hand over those items.
 
Do not get out of your vehicle when you are pulled over, even if you just want to explain yourself to the officer. 
 
Some recent controversial traffic stops have revolved around people refusing to exit their vehicles, but you must get out if the officer tells you to. They are also allowed to search your vehicle if any open alcohol or drugs are in sight or if they smell marijuana. 
 
You do not, however, have to answer any of their questions. You are also allowed to film the officer during the traffic stop. However, both actions will be seen as a red flag that something else is wrong. 
 
Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous incidents law enforcement agents can respond to because they have no background information going in. 
 
"The law enforcement officers in our community, they have the same purpose that everyone else does. They want to get up, go to work and go home to their families," said Sgt. Manoleas.