Traffic Stop!

Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor:

So, how should you handle a police encounter when you’re driving in your car and all of a sudden you see the flashing red or blue lights behind you? Well, first thing is pull off to the right side of the road as
quickly as possible. If it’s nighttime, put on your dome light. If it’s daytime, roll down your windows.

When the officer approaches your window, just be calm, polite and follow all of his instructions. If you’d like to have further clarification about what he needs from you, asking a calm question is never a bad idea. He’ll instruct you specifically as to how he wants you to behave. What happens if when you get pulled over you have a Texas license to carry a handgun? Well, the law in this area is a little bit confusing. So, we’ll walk through it.

First of all, if you have a license to carry, the only time you’re legally obligated to show it to the officer is when you are, in fact, carrying, so if you have a gun in your car and you have a license to carry, you should hand over that license with your driver’s license. Now, this is what starts to get a little bit confusing.

Technically there is no penalty for failing to hand over the license. The law is on the books. The law says you must hand it over if you’re carrying. However, the legislature has failed to include a penalty in this law. So, if you forget, if you decline to hand over your license, nothing bad is going to happen to you except that you might have an angry officer on your hands.

Frankly, we recommend that any time you have a license to carry a handgun and you’re pulled over, you should hand over your license to carry with your driver’s license. Even if you’re not carrying, even if you don’t think you should have to, it’s just something that can be helpful in your traffic stop. The officer will oftentimes already know that you have one from having run your driver’s license when he pulled you over. And officers tend to like people who have a license to carry. It might make your traffic stop a little bit more pleasant.

What happens if you have a gun in your car when you’re pulled over? Do you have an affirmative duty to tell the officer about the presence of weapons? No, actually you don’t. And in fact, we recommend that you not affirmatively disclose this information. It could complicate a traffic stop that would otherwise be very ordinary, very run-of-the-mill. If you have a license to carry, you should hand it over and your officer will probably say, Is there a gun in the car?

Absolutely, be honest. Tell them exactly where it is. Don’t reach for it when he asks you that, but make sure he knows where it is in the car. If you don’t have a license to carry and he just happens to ask you this question, “Do you have anything in the car I should know about, any weapons, firearms?”, of course be honest. But we recommend not disclosing this information before you’re asked.

Do the police need a warrant to search your car after you’ve been pulled over? No. Actually this is one of the largest exceptions to the warrant requirement. All a police officer has to do is articulate that he has probable cause that there’s evidence of a crime in your vehicle. So long as he can say he has probable cause, he’s allowed to search your car, no warrant required.

 

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