Traffic Stops With Concealed Carry
It’s a typical day – you’re on your way to work, running late, etc. and a police officer pulls you over for speeding. So what do you do if you have a legally-concealed firearm in the vehicle? We all need to be prepared to face the inevitable; let’s face it – none of us are perfect drivers. Here are a few tips on what to do (and what not to do) during a traffic stop when you are carrying concealed:
Don’t tell the officer you have a concealed firearm.
In Florida, there is no duty to tell law enforcement that you have a firearm in the vehicle or where it is located. It is absolutely none of their business. After all, you aren’t being arrested –you don’t deserve to be treated like common criminal and you certainly don’t want to turn a routine traffic stop into a full search and seizure of your personal, private belongings.
Florida law states that you must have your concealed weapons permit (CWP) and valid ID at all times in which you are in possession of a concealed weapon or firearm. You only have to produce these items to law enforcement upon demand. That means you have no duty to volunteer this information. Don’t mention it – there is no reason any officer needs to know what you have in your vehicle.
Be respectful and courteous.
Even though you have no duty to disclose, you do not want to give the officer any reason to start asking questions or snooping around your vehicle. Be respectful and cooperative. Don’t make any sudden or furtive movements. You don’t want to do anything to draw attention to yourself. Your goal is to end the encounter quickly and quietly, and be on your merry way.
If you get a ticket, don’t argue with the officer. You can always fight it later in court. Don’t be a jerk and turn it into a battle of wits, because believe me the officer will always find a way to win. You will never argue your way out of a ticket and you certainly don’t want to give the officer a reason to accuse you of doing anything else.
Be careful not to make any movements that would reveal the location of your firearm, such as getting your wallet or opening your purse. Make sure your license and registrations are kept separate from your firearm and within easy reach. Warn the officer of the location of your firearm on a “need to know” basis if you think it might be exposed. It’s not against the law to accidentally show a concealed weapon. But if an officer sees it unexpectedly you might end up the subject of armed takedown with the SWAT team on its way. That’s not the way you want a traffic stop to end. Remember, traffic stops are potentially dangerous situations for officers and they tend to be on edge when confronting new people. The encounter can quickly go bad if you get cocky and loud. Don’t do anything to put the officer on the defensive. A traffic ticket is not the end of the world. The last thing you want is to end up getting arrested over something stupid.
Don’t agree to a search of your vehicle.
An officer is only allowed to detain you for as long as it takes to issue a traffic citation. You are free to leave once you receive the ticket. You have no obligation to stay and answer further questions. If for some reason the officer asks if he/she can search your vehicle, you must NEVER consent. There is no situation in which you should ever let an officer search your vehicle. Without consent, law enforcement can’t search your car without a 4th Amendment exception. No consent = no search. Don’t give the police more power than they deserve. Do you think the officer would let you search the patrol car just because you’re curious? Absolutely not!! So why should you?
This is difficult for most people to do. Good law-abiding citizens feel like they have nothing to hide so they will just go along with it. But it is your Constitutional right to decline consent to search. You do not have to apologize, explain yourself or give a reason. You have a right to go about your business. Just simply say “no thank you” and leave.
Make sure you are legal.
Even after declining consent, law enforcement may detain you and conduct a search anyway. Although it’s rare, it does happen. Just remain calm and don’t say anything. Again, be polite and courteous. Arguing and combativeness will just escalate the situation and make it worse. If you feel your rights were violated, contact Dale Carson Law to address the situation legally and appropriately. The time to do that is after the fact, not during the traffic stop itself.
This is why you want to make sure you are doing everything by the book. The first thing to do if you are carrying a firearm is to make sure it is legal. All states are different. In Florida, if you have a concealed carry permit you can have your firearm pretty much anywhere if it is hidden from view (on your person, in a purse, under the seat, in the console, etc.) It does not have to be in a holster or securely encased. You can also keep it fully loaded and ready to use.