At one time or another, we have all seen the party lights in our rearview mirrors. In almost all cases, officers pull over motorists for traffic violations. In many cases, the infraction is a non-moving violation, such as the now-infamous dangling air freshener. Therefore, many people assume that they may pull over at their leisure, as long as they do not flee in a Dukes of Hazzard fashion.

High-speed police chases are certainly easier for the state to prove in court. However, if the officer believes that you attempted to evade detention, or that you thought about it then thought better of it, prosecutors could successfully bring evading arrest charges. More on that below. Furthermore, if you do not pull over straight away, the law enforcement contact gets off to a bad start. As we have all seen recently, once these encounters go wrong, they often end badly for everyone. More on that below as well.

Since evading detention is a nonviolent crime, the bail bondsmen near you at Fizer Bonding Company can normally help these defendants get out of jail quickly. We do more than “get your tail outta jail.” We also provide resources about the criminal justice bail bond system in Robertson and Montgomery counties, because we understand that the process is rather intimidating, especially for first timers. This information helps you make better decisions as your case unfolds.

Tennessee Law

In most states, evading arrest or detention is a misdemeanor. But in the Volunteer State, it is a Class E felony to “intentionally flee or attempt to elude any law enforcement officer, after having received any signal from the officer to bring the vehicle to a stop.” Additionally, if the officer believes that the motorist created “a risk of death or injury to innocent bystanders,” prosecutors may upgrade charges to a Class D felony.

Note the wording in the enhancement provision. It’s a risk of injury, not a risk of serious injury. Pretty much any sharp turn or sudden acceleration carries a risk of injury.

There’s more. Section 39-16-603 also includes a mandatory drivers’ license suspension. That period can be up to two years. Moreover, the court immediately confiscates the defendant’s drivers’ license. Usually, a drivers’ license is the only form of picture ID that individuals have.

Intent is usually key in these cases. This requirement protects motorists who are afraid to pull over, for whatever reason. And there are a number of perfectly valid reasons. For starters, not all police cars look like police cars. Unmarked squad cars have no official designation. That’s why they’re unmarked. Furthermore, a recent scientific study revealed that it gets dark at night and many areas are not well-lit. Some motorists are afraid to pull over in an area that is not well lit and for good reason!

So, it’s usually a good idea to activate your hazard flashers the moment you see the party lights going around. Furtive movements, like waving to the police officer or jerking your neck around to look in your mirror, could be considered hostile. This simple move makes it almost impossible to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt. At most, the state might establish that you intended to annoy the officer by making him/her follow you. If you were afraid to pull over and needed to find a place that “felt safe”, be sure to politely indicate this to the officer when they come up to your window. But that’s not against the law in Tennessee to find safe ground to pull over when told to do so by law enforcement.

On a related note, pay attention to your behavior after you pull over. Turn off the ignition, turn on the dome light if it’s dark outside, roll down the window, and put your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. Any other movement, such as rummaging through your glove box for your proof of insurance, could be misconstrued.

Your Rights During a Police Stop

Federal law requires individuals to comply with basic “step out of the car” commands. You must also give your name upon request and produce your drivers’ license and proof of insurance upon request. But that’s pretty much it. The protections listed in the Fifth Amendment apply as soon as custodial interrogation begins. 

“Custody” means the defendant doesn’t feel free to leave and “interrogation” means asking any questions, even something like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” In other words, the right to remain silent kicks in almost immediately.

The Supreme Court added an important new wrinkle to this issue in Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010). A sharply-divided Supreme Court ruled that defendants must affirmatively exercise their rights (e.g. specifically say: “I assert my Constitutional right to remain silent”). Merely keeping one’s mouth closed could be construed as a waiver of this right.

Incidentally, the Fifth Amendment applies to more than verbal silence. It also includes physical silence. Other than the aforementioned basic requirements, motorists need not do anything. For example, at a DUI checkpoint, you do not even need to roll down your window.

That being said, always remember that it’s a bad idea to antagonize officers. And, if you didn’t pull over immediately, even if you had a good reason for not doing so, the officer is most likely in a foul mood already.

These tips don’t only apply to DUI and other criminal matters. But, they do apply to simple speeding tickets. Generally, the officer wants to end these stops as soon as possible. It’s not very safe to stand next to a traffic lane. So, accept the ticket and move on. Comply now and complain later is the latest word from the National Police Association. Besides, even the most gifted orators usually cannot talk their way out of speeding tickets.

Filming the Police

Before we wrap up, let’s talk about filming the police with a cell phone or other camera. Most people assume they have a First Amendment right to record video of police officers as they execute their official duties. But the question is complex, especially in the Sixth Circuit, which includes Tennessee.

The Supreme Court has not yet determined if filming the police is a clearly established fundamental right. That label, which seems like a technicality, determines whether or not the First Amendment applies. In the absence of Supreme Court guidance, individual circuits decide the law for themselves. 

Since the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to rule on this issue, we are down to lower court decisions. These decisions conflict. In 2014, a Kentucky district judge ruled that no clearly established right existed. On almost the same day, an Ohio district judge made the almost exact opposite ruling. So, for now at least, it’s probably a good idea to put the phone down because currently the laws are gray and uncertain . 

For more information about the criminal justice system or Montgomery County bail bonds, contact the Clarksville, TN bail bondsmen at Fizer Bonding Company. Our family-owned bonding service has filled the bonding needs of Montgomery and Robertson Counties for over 40 years. Fizer Bonding Company is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. For more info about Fizer Bonding Company bail bonds, click here.

“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”

Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee

(931) 449-9351

Fizer Bonding Company in Robertson County Tennessee

(615) 667-1109

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