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Is a police stop as a pedestrian different than as a driver?

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Misdemeanors |

If you live in California or plan to visit, you may wonder what to do if you encounter a police officer. This could be while walking as a pedestrian or driving as a driver. And, to be clear, there are differences between these two situations.

Pedestrian stops

As of January 1, 2023, California pedestrians will be able to cross the street away from an intersection without getting a ticket, thanks to the Freedom to Walk Act. This law limits when police officers can stop and ticket a pedestrian for jaywalking.

Under the Freedom to Walk Act, police will only issue a fine to a pedestrian who is aware of the immediate danger of an accident but chooses to jaywalk anyway. However, this does not mean that pedestrians can ignore traffic signals or signs or walk recklessly on the road.

If a police officer stops you as a pedestrian, you should stay calm and respectful. Ask why you are being stopped and listen to the officer’s explanation. Provide your name and address if asked, but you do not have to show ID unless you are under arrest or suspected of a crime.

Do not argue, resist or run away from the officer. If you feel that your rights have been violated, file a complaint later.

Driver stops

As a driver, you have more obligations and responsibilities than a pedestrian when it comes to interacting with the police. You must obey all traffic laws and signals, and carry a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and vehicle insurance. You must also stop when signaled by a police officer, either by flashing lights or sirens or by hand gestures.

If a police officer stops you as a driver, you should pull over to a safe location as soon as possible. Turn off your engine and turn on your interior light if it is dark. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and do not reach for anything unless instructed by the officer.

Provide your driver’s license, registration and insurance, but only when asked. Do not reach for the documents until you are asked, and do not argue, resist or flee from the officer.

If you are asked to step out of your car, do so slowly and carefully. If you are asked to perform a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, you have the right to refuse, but you may face consequences, such as arrest or license suspension. If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and to request a lawyer.