Tips for Handling Arrests, Detentions and Traffic Stops in Pennsylvania


Nobody plans on getting arrested, but those that do make the same honest and ill-advised mistakes which make their situations worse.

There is one simple rule of thumb to remember if you are ever arrested: DONT TALK. The time and place to provide your side of the story and argue that your rights are being violated is inside of a courtroom, not at the scene of your arrest.


1. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS IN A RESPECTFUL MANNER: You have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent and speak with a lawyer before police questioning - exercise those rights in a respectful manner. If you are being questioned about an incident, or are asked to come down to the police station to give a statement, politely state: "I would like to remain silent and speak with a lawyer as soon as possible." This simple but effective act will protect you from saying something that you will regret. 

2. DO NOT PROVIDE A STATEMENT TO THE POLICE: There is a time and a place to tell your side of the story - at trial. While it is natural to want to defend yourself against false accusations, you are not going to convince a police officer that you're innocent. But a judge or jury may be convinced of your guilt when you say the wrong things. 

Bits and pieces of your statements can be twisted around and used against you. For example - if police are investigating a burglary, and you tell them "I just drove, I never went inside or took anything," you didn't help yourself. To the contrary, you just placed yourself at the scene of the crime, and have implicated yourself as an accomplice. A DUI suspect who tells an officer they had "2 beers," didn't convince the officer of their sobriety, but admitted to an element of a crime - imbibing alcohol. 

Police officers are allowed to lie to you to get you to talk. They can pretend that there is video surveillance evidence of the crime, that your DNA/fingerprints were found, that one of your co-defendants has told them the whole story, or that they will help reduce your sentence if you cooperate. Your response to these potential lies should be simple: "I would like to remain silent and speak with my lawyer."

3. DO NOT ARGUE WITH POLICE: Want to win an argument with a police officer? Then hire a good lawyer who can properly analyze whether or not your constitutional rights have been violated, and whether or not the government can prove your guilt. Otherwise, do not argue, criticize, or act disrespectfully towards a police officer, regardless of how you were treated. Doing so only makes it more difficult to resolve your case in a favorable manner before trial. 

4. DO NOT ENGAGE IN SUDDEN REACHING MOVEMENTS OR LOOK IN THE DIRECTION OF AREAS YOU DO NOT WANT POLICE TO SEARCH: If you are being detained or stopped by a member of law enforcement, do not make any sudden reaching movements. This will not only raise concerns about whether or not you are armed and dangerous, but the police will use these movements as a justification to search you and your vehicle without a warrant. These motions are commonly referred to as "furtive movements." 

If your license and registration are located in your car door, center console, glove box or purse, ask the police officer for permission to access those areas after they arrive at your window. This will help diffuse any tension that may arise at the scene of your traffic stop. 

5. DO NOT RUN AWAY: If a police officer orders you to stop, or attempts to stop your vehicle, do not run. You will not escape, and can be charged with felony and misdemeanor Police Officer Crimes, increasing your possible jail sentence. To make matters worse, even if you are completely innocent, the Judge will instruct the jury that your flight is evidence of your guilt. If you are ordered to stop, or are placed under arrest, comply with the officer's orders. If a police officer pulls behind you and activates their lights and sirens, pull over at the first available opportunity. 

6. DO NOT RESIST ARREST, STRUGGLE OR MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO TAKE YOU INTO CUSTODY: Nothing makes a minor incident worse than an allegation that you resisted arrest. Even if you feel that your arrest is unlawful, DO NOT RESIST. If you actively resist, struggle, wiggle, refuse to allow police to put your hands behind your back, or engage in similar behavior, you will be charged with a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor Resisting Arrest charge. In severe cases of resistance, you may be tased and charged with a 2nd Degree Felony for Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer. 

7. DO PROVIDE YOUR PHOTO ID AND DO NOT PROVIDE A FAKE NAME OR IDENTIFYING INFORMATION: If a police officer requests your photo ID and other identifying information, you are best served providing this to them. Generally, police officers may ask you for your ID even if you have done nothing wrong. If asked to identify yourself, don't give them a fake name, fake ID or other identification info, as you will be charged with False ID to Law Enforcement, a 3rd Degree Misdemeanor. Provide your identifying information, and exercise your right to remain silent thereafter. 

8. DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH, BUT DON'T INTERVENE IF THE POLICE SEARCH YOU, YOUR VEHICLE OR YOUR HOME: At this point, you should have already notified police that you want to remain silent and speak with a lawyer. However, if the police ask for permission to search your home, vehicle or person, you should politely inform them that you do not consent to the search. However, if police begin their search without your consent, do not argue or resist. 

9. DO NOT REFUSE A BLOOD DRAW OR BREATH TEST IF STOPPED FOR DUI: If you are stopped for DUI, you DO NOT have the right to speak with a lawyer before submitting to a chemical test of your blood or breath. If you refuse chemical testing, you may be charged with DUI Refusal, a highest-tier DUI offense. You will also lose your driving privileges for 12-18 months. 

10. DO NOT DISCUSS THE DETAILS OF THE INCIDENT WITH OTHERS BEFORE TALKING TO A LAWYER: It is natural for a person to want to inform family members about the circumstances behind one's arrest. However, only communications between an attorney and client are considered privileged and confidential. Statements made to others may not be protected. If you are a family member concerned about a loved one facing criminal charges, don't play detective - call a lawyer to schedule a consultation.  


LEARN ABOUT YOUR CHARGES: By reviewing the Practice Areas link at the top of this webpage. Our website lists information on DUI, Drug Crimes, Violent Crimes, Sex Crimes, and Underage Crimes.

REVIEW YOUR CRIMINAL COMPLAINT: With the paperwork you received from the Magistrate will include a Criminal Complaint with an Affidavit of Probable Cause. Review the charges and the allegations in those documents as soon as possible. 

SEEK A FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION: By calling the Zuckerman Law Firm LLC at 412-447-5580 or reaching out through the "Contact Us" form to the right. You can immediately begin feeling better about your situation by calling us now!