SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Every driver’s worst nightmare is to see the bright blue lights in their review mirror. If you are stopped by an officer in Georgia, here is what you need to know to minimize your fear.

“When I turn on the blue lights and siren, I’ve already picked where I want them to stop, somewhere that is safe for both parties,” said Star Cpl. Gerard “Guy” Fedak.

Fedak has been with the Savannah Police Department for 31 and a half years, with 21 of those years in the traffic division.

You should know that in Georgia, an officer can arrest you for a minor traffic stop, so to comply is to avoid arrest.

Pullover ASAP

When signaled to pull over, do so as soon as possible and place your hands on the steering wheel. Avoid big movements because that could lead to an officer suspecting criminal activity.

“So, the people shouldn’t be looking for license or registration, they need to leave their hands on the wheel and wait until the officer requests that information, which makes the officer feel more comfortable,” said Fedak.

Georgia law requires you to show your driver’s license, registration and some proof of insurance at the request of an officer. Failure to do so can lead to an arrest.

Additionally, if you have tinted windows, rolling them down beforehand puts the officer at ease.

“We’re gonna walk up and explain, we’re going to be cordial because the officer is trying to do what they have to do,” said Fedak. “You can go to court, but we don’t do court on the side of the road.”

What if I own a gun?

If you are not a gun owner, let the officer know and if you are, let the officer know.

“I like when people do that if they say ‘Hey, I have a firearm inside the vehicle,’ or ‘Hey, my gun is in the glove compartment,’ because if they open the glove compartment where their gun is and an officer can see it, things could get sticky,” said Kedak.

You are allowed to record officers

This is protected by the First Amendment, and you are also not obligated to tell the officer that you are recording them.

“The officer can’t tell them to stop recording,” said Fedak.

Law enforcement is not allowed to delete or destroy any recording. If they do so, you can inform the American Civil Liberties Union.

A traffic stop is not the time to argue over citations, it’s better to research and seek legal consultation to build a case.

Recording the encounter is highly recommended by lawyers because the footage can be used in court to show if you were legally arrested.

Do not give the officer an excuse to search your vehicle

Things such as hiding items or throwing anything out of your car could lead to an officer being curious and legally searching your car.

If they believe you are involved in criminal activity, they can perform a “Pat Down” as well.

You can refuse an officer searching your car, this is thanks to the Fourth Amendment which protects against unreasonable search and seizures, but the following exception applies:

An arrest, contraband in plain view, probable cause (concrete proof) and citizen consent allow for officers in Georgia to search your car.

“For officers to make an arrest or gain access to a warrant, probable cause is required,” according to Grisham, Poole & Carlile, PC Criminal Defense.

Reasonable articulable suspicion vs. probable cause

Reasonable suspicion is the belief of criminal activity and probable cause is the proof of criminal activity. With reasonable suspicion, you can be stopped (weaving within the lane), but with probable cause (positive drug results or plain view contraband), you can be arrested.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence, or DUI, law enforcement will read you Georgia implied consent law.

You can refuse to take a drug test but you must submit a chemical sample to the state administrator, and if you do not, you will lose your license.

“It’s their choice no matter what. They could lose their driver’s license for up to a year, but they do not have to take the test,” said Fedak.

If probable cause isn’t found, then an officer must release the detainee.

Additional rights

Drivers and passengers are not required to answer any questions. Also, someone stopped has the right to challenge the legality of the stop; the same goes for searches of your car.

“Officer conduct would be the department,” said Fedak. “Contact their supervisor and they can complain that way, but when it comes to innocent or guilty, only the courts can determine that.”

It’s very important to know that signing a citation doesn’t mean guilt, it simply says that you signed for the summons that you will appear in court.

Law enforcement

“You just don’t know, there is nothing routine about a traffic stop, that’s why officers take a tactical approach,” said Fedak. “That is the most dangerous thing an officer does on a daily basis is traffic stops.”

Officers are very guarded during traffic stops because many officers are killed due to vehicle-related incidents.

Additionally, over 1,200 people were killed by police in 2022. Over the past few decades, the trust between the public and law enforcement has deteriorated.

“Everywhere they go, doesn’t matter where they work, there’s a bad apple. You are not going to have perfect across the board,” said Fedak.

A survey by The Washington Post and ABC News found that only 39% of Americans are confident that police are properly trained to use excessive force, versus 60% not confident.

“We get yelled at, cussed at, talked down to, but a good officer will let that roll off their shoulder. But when it comes to words, you can’t let that get under your skin,” said Fedak. “They are not attacking you, they are attacking the uniform.”