Handling a traffic stop

Most every driver in North Carolina will be pulled over at some point in his or her lifetime. This can be a very nerve racking experience. Blue lights come on; how fast must I pull over, where is a good location, what if there isn’t room to pull off, etc.? Though most traffic stops will not lead to investigations beyond your license, registration/inspection and maybe insurance the following is still good advice to follow to ensure you are not making the State’s attempt to prosecute you any easier.

Understand that you have Constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to remain silent. There are no laws on the books that require you to answer an officer’s questions or to consent to them searching you or searching your vehicle (that’s not to say they can’t search you or your vehicle, only that you have the right to refuse to CONSENT to it). For traffic stops, you are only required to produce proof of Driver’s license, registration/inspection, and insurance.


  • Do pull over as fast and as safe as is reasonably possible
  • Do wait for the officer to approach your car
  • Do leave your hands on the steering wheel until asked to do otherwise
  • Do be polite and respectful
  • Do follow orders (recognize what constitutes an ‘order’ and what is a ‘request’ or ‘consent’)


  • Don’t drive forever after the blue lights come on
  • Don’t jerk the car over when pulling to a stop
  • Don’t exit the vehicle UNLESS the officer orders you to
  • Don’t admit to anything
  • Don’t consent to any searches
  • Don’t agree to any tests

Exception – The Intox EC/IR, which is the breath test device used downtown on DWI arrests is what is called “Implied Consent.” There are consequences to refusing to give a breath sample just like there are consequences to providing the breath sample. Only you can decide whether to refuse or not and I would advise speaking with an attorney about your options before facing such a decision.

I understand how hard it can be to stand up for your rights when speaking with an officer, and I am not advising you to be mean or rude about it. OAlways to be polite and respectful, but to explain that you do not wish to answer any questions and do not consent to any searches without the advice or presence of a lawyer.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.