Earlier this year there was a sensational video about a man who was “Arrested and Beaten for driving his own car”.  This took place in Evanston, IL and the police were criticized across the board for their actions.  Below is a video with response from the police department.

Let’s go through the highlights of what happened and see what the man involved could have done to better protect himself:

  1. A witnessed called police because she saw a man that looked like he was using something to “jimmy” a car door and then get in and drive away.  She screamed at him to try to get him to stop.
  2. The man driving the car had his own dashcam (a great thing to help protect yourself after any incidents occur) and you can hear him on the phone saying that some crazy woman was screaming in the street and started following him. He stated that he thought that they might have thought he was stealing his own car.  He says the person is following him and then the police are pulling him over.
  3. When he is pulled by police he has an idea of what had been reported and wants to straighten it out.
  4. At 9:05 in the video is where he makes a crucial error.  Our instruction to clients has always been to stop when police pull you over and have your credentials (license, registration and proof of insurance) ready.  You should have all these documents in an easy to get to location like your wallet or shirt pocket EVERY TIME YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL!  When you stop you should hold your credentials in your hand with BOTH HANDS resting above the steering wheel and roll your window down a few inches. The man in the video decides to get out and go toward the police.
  5. Even with his hands raised, he has made a bad mistake.  Now instead of being able to present his credentials through the window, he is out of the car (not normal procedure) and the police are triggered to be aggressive.  He has not broken any laws, but he has made a breech in traffic stop protocol. Now the police have the adrenaline in their veins and are ready for action.
  6. As they police rush him (they believe they have a car thief on their hands) he is taken down and handcuffed.  This would not have happened if he followed the basic protocol: Credentials in hand, hands on steering wheel, window slightly down.  If he had done so an officer would have approached him and he could have handed his credential through the window.  The officer would have checked them and he would be on his way.

The police aren’t perfect, but in this case they had false information from a well-meaning, but uninformed citizen. They will no doubt end up settling a suit because of their actions, but the whole incident could have been prevented if he had followed the proper procedure.
Remember that the police do not know who they have pulled over until they run your license so always be ready with:

Credentials in hand,

hands on steering wheel,

window slightly down,

speak calmly and don’t offer information that is not relevant.

Additional information may just confuse the issue.  You might actually incriminate yourself for some other offense that they have no idea about.  you may also say something to give them cause to search your car or person.

This may help you when you are pulled over.  There are a lot of criminals out there who want to do harm to the police, which makes the police very nervous when approaching a car at a traffic stop.  You can do a lot to insure your own safety be making them feel safe.

Credentials in hand, hands on steering wheel, window slightly down, speak calmly and don’t offer information that is not relevant.

How not to be beaten for “stealing your own car”