Getting stopped by police is stressful. In their uniform with their hand near their firearm, police officers can be extremely intimidating. But what if the person who pulled you over was not actually a police officer? What if it was simply someone wearing a uniform and carrying a gun, someone who had no legal right to pull you over whatsoever. Would you know the difference? Would you know what to do?
According to an article from Orlando Weekly, this was exactly what happened to one Orlando driver. In this instance, the “police officer” was actually an employee of a private security company. Without having any authority to do so, this person pulled a driver over to warn that he was driving at unsafe speeds. However, in an interesting twist, there was an actual police officer at the scene of this traffic stop. The driver who was pulled over turned out to be an off-duty police officer, who then arrested the security guard for impersonating an officer.
Thankfully, these scenarios are fairly infrequent. Still, drivers should exercise caution if they believe that something is wrong. This starts with pulling over into a well-lit or populated area. Note the police officer’s uniform and equipment. Does it look legit? Listen to what the police officer says. If you are not told why you are being pulled over or asked for your driver’s license and registration, these could be signs something is wrong. You can always call 911 and tell the dispatcher the situation, asking to verify that this is indeed an actual police officer pulling you over.
Even if you fully believe that the police officer conducting the traffic stop is a legitimate police officer, never forget that you have rights. You have the right to remain silent. Use it. Answering questions could potentially incriminate you. There are also specific rules prohibiting illegal search. Knowing your rights can save you from becoming embroiled in a potentially devastating criminal case.