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What to Do During a Traffic Stop in Virginia

Key Takeaways

  • You must present your license and registration to the officer when police pull you over in Virginia.
  • You do not have to consent to any searches of your vehicle, but if they search after you do not consent, do not interfere or resist.
  • If any evidence is collected from an illegal search, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the evidence suppressed in court.
  • Signing a summons is merely promising to appear in court on a specific date. It is not an admission of guilt. You should sign.

Traffic stops occur all the time in Virginia, but they can be difficult to deal with if you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes the officer will give you something to sign or ask you if they can search your vehicle. Not knowing how to answer can put you at a significant disadvantage.

You have rights during a traffic stop and in any other interaction with a police officer, but we always recommend being polite and cooperative with the police. You can’t solve any problems from the side of the road. Take a closer look at what to do when the Virginia police pull you over and how a Virginia traffic lawyer can help you after an encounter with the police.

What to Do if You Are Pulled Over by Virginia Police

When you are pulled over by Virginia police, the most important thing to remember is that you should remain polite and cooperative. Nothing is going to get solved on the side of the road, so let the process play out. Know that you have a right to refuse certain requests, but you must cooperate with other requests under Virginia law. When you are stopped, you must present your driver’s license and vehicle registration to the officer. If you do not have either of these, it is considered a traffic infraction.

What is a Summons, and Should You Sign?

A summons is a statement of your court date for whatever traffic infraction or criminal action you are accused of in a traffic stop. You are not legally required to sign it, but it is advisable to go ahead and sign it. Note that your signature does not indicate that you are guilty of whatever you are being accused of. It is only an indication that you agree to appear in court on the selected date. That is the extent of it, so there is no downside to signing it. If you do not sign it, however, it can be used to demonstrate that you were inherently uncooperative, which, while not a crime, will not do you any favors in your case.

Can You Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle?

Yes, you can refuse a search of your vehicle if the officer does not have probable cause. It is advisable that you comply with whatever the officer says, but you can state that you do not consent to any searches of your vehicle. Since the average person may not know what exactly qualifies as probable cause, it is safe to state that you do not consent to any searches just in case. If they have probable cause, the lack of your consent does not matter. If they do not have probable cause, your lack of consent could help get any evidence found suppressed.

What to Do if the Police Search Your Vehicle Without Your Consent

man stands with police officers as they search his vehicle's trunk

If a police officer proceeds to search your vehicle without your consent even after you state that you do not consent, it is important that you do not resist this search or attempt to physically impede the officer in any way. Restate your verbal objection to the search, allow the search to happen unimpeded, and speak to a lawyer later about the incident to see if you have recourse. If the police find any evidence of a crime when conducting an unlawful search, your lawyer may be able to get it thrown out in court.

Why Clients Choose Randall & Bruch, PC

At Randall & Bruch, PC, we have extensive experience representing drivers in Virginia who experienced police stops. With more than 85 years of combined service, our lawyers will advocate for you with unrelenting commitment and compassion. We have lawyers at our firm who are former police and prosecutors, so we understand the justice system from every angle. Take a look at what some of our previous clients had to say about our trusted, resourceful, and responsive services.


“Kept me informed and gave me plenty of notice so I could handle my part of the process. Easy to work with and helpful!” — Rhett O.

“Randall & Bruch, P.C. is an amazing law firm. They are very thorough and communicate with you (the client) through the entire process. They even give you tasks that you can do to help your case. I’m really glad that I chose Randall & Bruch to represent me in court.” — Sandra C.

Know Your Rights to Protect Your Rights

The first step in protecting your rights is knowing your rights. The second step is contacting Randall & Bruch, PC for legal representation. Our experienced attorneys are familiar with how Virginia police and prosecutors function, and we can use that knowledge for your benefit. Get in touch with our team today at 757-742-6115 or by filling out our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation.

jack t randall

Written By Jack T. Randall


As lifelong resident of Western Tidewater, Jack Randall is a local attorney who wants the best results for his clients. He is an experienced and aggressive attorney with focus on family law, criminal and traffic law, as well as personal injury law cases.