Your heart skips a beat as you pass by an officer only to notice him pull out after you with his emergency lights flashing. It's at that moment that you realize, a traffic stop has been initiated. The NC DMV lists steps on suggested procedures for motorists in the new handbook, which you can check out on their website. Here, I have compiled a few commonly asked questions regarding traffic stops:
What should I do once stopped?
First, you should pull your vehicle over a safe distance from the roadway so traffic can easily get around (if possible). Once you have pulled over, you should put your vehicle in park and roll down the window. At this point remain in the vehicle with your hands visible to the officer (hands on the steering wheel is a good location until the officer can safely see inside the vehicle). Do not start reaching for your identification and registration until and unless instructed by the officer to do so. (This answer is not governed by NC Law, these are just safety tips).
Are you required to show your identification?
Yes, under N.C. General Statute 20-29, if you are operating a motor vehicle you are required to produce your license and registration for the vehicle.
Do I have to answer the officer's questions?
No, you are not required to say anything during a traffic stop, nor are you required to answer the questions that are posed to you from the officer. Once you have handed over your license and registration it is up to you as to whether you engage the officer in additional conversation.
I have a concealed carry should I remove it?
No! If you have been through the concealed carry class and have a valid concealed carry license (which is the only reason you should be concealing your weapon), you will already know that you are required to keep your hands on the wheel and inform the officer once he makes contact with you that you have a valid CCW License and your weapon is concealed in the vehicle. (The officer may or may not ask you to step out of the vehicle for safety).
Can an officer search my vehicle?
You should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you with this question. Absent a reason, generally an officer cannot just search your vehicle. They can ask for your consent to search your vehicle. Remember you have the right to tell them NO! However, even if you tell them no, the officer still may have other circumstances that he/she feels warrants a legal search of your vehicle without a warrant. If your vehicle was searched without your permission and without a warrant, contact us today to talk about your rights!