In the wake of fatal shootings by police following motor vehicle stops around the country, many law-abiding citizens with concealed firearms in their vehicles want to know what to do if they are stopped by police. Here's what we suggest you do when you see police emergency lights in your rearview mirror when you have a concealed firearm in your vehicle:
- Pull over & away from traffic. You should pull over as soon as possible and as far away from the roadway as is practical. When you do this, you demonstrate that you are compliant with the signal to pull over and you allow the officer a safe path to your driver's side window, away from traffic.
- Lower your driver's side window & turn on your interior light. This will allow for clear communication and eliminate any difficulty the police officer might have seeing you. At night, turn on your interior light. This also will allow the officer to see you better. After all, you are no threat to him and you want him to see and understand that you present no risk.
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel & in plain sight. Place and keep both hands on the top of your steering wheel. When police make a threat assessment as they approach a vehicle following a stop, they will watch your hands. When you place both of your hands on the top of your steering wheel - and keep them there - you make clear to the officer that you present no danger to him or her. Again, at night, having your interior light on helps police to see your hands on the steering wheel.
- Tell the officer you have a firearm in your vehicle & tell him where it's located. When you tell the police officer that you have a firearm in your vehicle, after he sees your hands on the steering wheel with your interior light on, you demonstrate to him that you pose no risk to the officer. You also will be signaling to the officer that you are a law-abiding citizen who respects him. With your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight, calmly disclose the location of the firearm within your car. Do not reach for the firearm (or anything else)!
- Listen carefully & comply with all instructions. Listen carefully to what the officer says while keeping your hands on the steering wheel. You should comply with all the officer's instructions. If you are unsure about what the officer wants you to do, keep your hands in plain sight on the steering wheel and ask for clarification. For example, you might ask, "Officer, how would you like me to get my insurance and registration from the glove compartment given that is the same place where my firearm is located?"
- Be prepared to produce your CCL. In Pennsylvania, you must have a concealed carry license (CCL) in order to travel with a firearm in your car, and upon lawful demand by police you must produce your CCL. (If you are allowed to carry a concealed firearm because you fall into one of the exceptions that excuse you from possessing a CCL, you must be prepared to prove that the exception applies to you should police ask you to produce a CCL.)
You have to understand that when police officers approach vehicles, they have no idea what they will encounter. For them, every traffic stop has the potential to be deadly. When you follow these recommendations you make the situation easy and clear for the officer. You demonstrate that you are not a threat. When you follow these suggestions most police will recognize the efforts that you made to eliminate the perception of any threat and it may also influence how they handle the initial reason for the stop. More importantly, following these recommendations keeps everyone safe - the police officer, your passengers, and you.
For a segment on WICU TV on this important subject provided by Erie lawyer Tim George of Purchase & George, P.C. visit www.erienewsnow.com/story/fatal-officer-involved-shootings-spark-nationwide-outrage.