RVer safety: How much info should you give if you’re pulled over?

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By Mike Sherman

Last week’s article on carrying a weapon in an RV generated a lot of interest. I have heard from readers throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. I’ve been retired for several years now and it quickly became apparent I lack knowledge on current laws.


As previously stated, our goal with this column is to engage in a general discussion of ideas and thoughts, to promote a dialog that can give others a deeper understanding and greater insight into RVer safety and self-protection. My comments are not to be considered sound legal doctrine, just opinions based on experiences. We are all the product of our environment and life experiences, so there will seldom be absolutely perfect answers on a very complicated subject. Those with specific questions should always consult their local law enforcement jurisdiction or legal counsel.

With that in mind, I’m addressing one reader’s comment on the subject of “To cooperate or not to cooperate.”

From Dave:

Dear Mike:
My question concerns your comment: “While there is a fragmented aspect to the legal ramifications of carrying a weapon through the various states one might travel, survival is obviously the goal when dealing with any emergency. Having said that, it is important that I stress the importance of always being truthful with any investigating authority in the event you are confronted with questions like, ‘Do you have any weapons on board?’ Always be honest!”

I definitely agree at all times to be courteous and respectful to law enforcement personnel.


However, if at a “traffic stop” (which has never happened to me) an officer asks if I have any weapons within my RV (my home), I plan to only provide the officer with my driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance – which I am required by law to provide. And I will politely not respond to the question.

I am not required to say where I am headed, if I have any weapons in my vehicle or other non-traffic-stop questions. Your thoughts? —Dave

Mike’s response:

Dear Dave:
I would highly recommend you reconsider your stance. The officer might be stopping you for a non-traffic related reason. Perhaps your vehicle matches the description of a suspect involved in a crime. Maybe his information is vague, but there is sufficient “probable cause” to stop you for a perfectly legitimate investigation.

If you refuse to answer any questions, you could easily find yourself in the back seat of the squad car. The officer has every right to question you to a greater or lesser degree depending on a host of circumstances and reasons. It is almost common to be asked if you have any weapons or drugs on board even for a routine traffic stop.

The officer has a right to know if you are armed. Suppose it’s for a traffic violation. He needs to feel secure in dealing with you. Cops have been shot while writing out a citation in their patrol car … not noticing the driver got out of their car and is quickly walking back toward the officer.

Suppose the driver fled a restaurant without paying for the meal. The restaurant calls the police. They are given a description and other facts that might be helpful. The food server might say, “He said he was headed to so-and-so” when placing his order. The officer is not sure if he stopped the correct vehicle, so he proceeds with his investigation and will ask, “Where are you headed?” as part of the inquiry.

If you refuse to answer, are uncooperative and display a defiant attitude, the officer might assume you are the correct suspect. He may have a fellow officer get the waiter or waitress and do a “drive-by” to see if you are positively identified. All of this takes time.

To “resist, delay or obstruct” an officer in the performance of his duties is a thin line to walk. Most states have statutes arming the police with a host of tools that could cause you a great deal of problems. If they have probable cause to stop you, they have probable cause to question you. You are not a POW with a mandate to provide only a name/rank/serial number.

If the officer has the wrong man, he’ll realize it soon enough after his interrogation. It’s perfectly legal – you need not be under arrest for him to query you. The U.S. Supreme Court has given officers a broad field in which to operate and I would hate to see you be on the losing end of a situation while maintaining that your refusal to answer questions is your right to resist.

It truly is in your best interest to simply answer his/her questions then be on your way, free as a bird. I hope you can understand my reasoning. Thanks for asking my thoughts.

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

RVer safety: How much info should you give if you're pulled over?Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions or comments.

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Tim

Along a related matter is how to respond if an LEO asks to search your vehicle. An LEO is perfectly legal to ask and if he has probable cause can search without consent. However in the case where there is no probable cause I would respond to a request for a search by asking the LEO what he is looking for. If his explanation to that question sounds to me like a fishing expedition I would refuse. However if the LEO convinces me he has a valid reason, ie recent carjacking or crime then I would allow with restrictions. If his search starts to get personal I would stop the search and suffer the consequences. He would suffer the consequences later in court if I could prove he was simply over-reaching.

RB1

A lot of states “require” you to inform the officer if you are armed (weapon in vehicle), which the common term used is “Duty to Inform”. There are some good websites that list state laws; I would definitely recommend reading them. When I travel, I check a concealed carry website, read and print the rules for the states I will be traveling. Additionally, there are some states that you do not even want to “think” about having a loaded weapon inside your vehicle with you; automatic trip to jail.
If in doubt, keep it unloaded, locked, ammo separate in the trunk or keep it in a travel trailer. I do not know the specifics on being armed in the motor home in certain states so tread careful. This is a problem in the country with a mish-mash of different laws and a person needs to be knowledgeable.

Jim

Am I being detained or am I free to go? If I’m being detained what is your suspicion officer that “I” am engaged in an illegal activity? Those are the only true questions that are at issue from a traffic stop or otherwise. EVERYTHING else is just a fishing expedition by the officer and you would be ill advised to not get on his hook.
“Show me your papers” is what you would expect in a communist country not here in the Red White and Blue. Here we have rights that were paid for in blood. Don’t cheapen the memory of that by saying the “officer” is the final say. I agree with the original poster by saying politely ” It’s really none of your business” now, am I being detained or am I free to go?

Gene Bennington

I live in Ohio and have a CCW (concealed carry weapon) permit. If I’m carrying while driving, the first thing I do when entering my vehicle is place my wallet (contains CCW permit, drivers license and insurance paper) within easy reach so if I’m stopped by police, I don’t have to bend down or move around a lot to retreive my wallet. If you move around a lot, the officier may think you are reaching for a weapon or trying to hide something. When pulled over, I put my window down, grab wallet, turn on inside lights (if dark out) and place hands on top of steering wheel. Then, when officier approaches, I say hello and state I have a CCW permit and loaded weapon on board. And we go from there. NOW if I don’t have a weapon on board, I’m not obligated to state that I have a CCW permit. At last count, there are 17 states having reciprocity laws with Ohio. When traveling, I always carry as there are way too many crazies running around. I will and must protect my family. Loved your comment regarding “judged by 12” is way better than “carried by 6”.

Best Regards
Gene

Donald Tucker

Cooperate fully and if you feel your rights have been violated file a complaint with the agency immediately after the incident. With the increased use of body cams and such it is easy enough to document such encounters.

Chris S.

Dave, thank you for the great comment/question and Mike, I think you hit the nail on the head. I would agree with you 100%. I think far to often avoidable instances occur when routine stops are escalated because of a possible suspect being unwilling to fully cooperate and/or not being forthright.

Lynn Decker

The idea that David puts forth seems ridiculous to me and counter productive. Why, if you have done nothing wrong, would you “politely refuse to answer?” Do you really think that the police officer is going to take your polite refusal lightly? You have just set yourself up as being guilty based on your evasion. I think you are just setting yourself up for a world of hurt by being passive aggressive.

Impavid

Some really interesting perspectives here. Try crossing the border from the U.S to Canada or vice versa and tell the border people “I have nothing to say”. They will have something to say and it will be, at the very least, “Turn your vehicle around and don’t come back. We now have your plate in our computer system.” If you have nothing to hide why not cooperate and answer the questions.

Dave Hagen

My name is Dave and I disagree with the Dave mentioned in the post. I was stopped by an Arizona State Policeman last month near Quartzsite. I was doing 73 in a 55 MPH zone. I answered all of his questions, including where I was going and where I was staying while in Arizona. All of my legal paperwork was in order. The trooper ended up just giving me a written warning instead of a big ticket, saying he appreciated my co-operation.

John Karlson

Suggest the “carrier” of a firearm in their RV educate themselfs on the laws of whatever state they are traveling into.

As an example, my concealed permit from CT is NOT legal in any other state, and in CT if you are passing through-and carrying a concealed firearm you are in violation of CT weapons laws. So how do you answer the question when the CT trooper asked a non resident if he/she is carrying a firearm in their RV?

Patrick Granahan

If an officer pulls you over he runs your plate before he starts the conversation.
If you have an outstanding warrant he will know it.
If you have a concealed handgun carry permit you must tell him immediately !
If you do not have a permit and have a loaded firearm in your vehicle ..Good-Luck !

I always carry a loaded concealed handgun….kinda like a parachute….comes in handy
when you need it…..if you need it and don’t have it you probably will never need one again.
R.I.P.

Drew

I don’t think most officers would even ask the firearms question in a case where it is primarily a traffic stop only…and the driver should probably know it in that case anyway. I hope that readers of RV Travel.com don’t get this question and from reading the newsletter for many years I’m pretty sure that’s true. I’d be willing to bet that if an officer is prompted to ask the “question” he is likely dealing with a possible known repeat offender of some sort, or has some other clues that the person he’s about to deal with may be more than just a mundane traffic law breaker. Maybe Mike Sherman could comment on this.

Bill Semion

lf you’re a Michigan resident, liberal or not (see one responder’s not-needed added comment that has nothing to do with this discussion), with a CPL, your license plate first gives you away that you have a CPL license, as the officer, when looking it up in his/her computer, can quickly see either you do or don’t. Second it’s only courtesy, especially these days, to inform the officer; he/she’s nervous enough as it is, as traffic stops can go awry in a hurry, and third, in Michigan, I believe you’re required to notify the stopping officer that you have a permit, and whether you have a weapon in the car. If I’m ever stopped, and I have been in a GM press fleet pickup that apparently matched or was close to a description of a vehicle involved in something, I presented my license and CPL. The only thing I was bugged about was when I was cleared, the officer never, ever, apologized. If i was him, I would have. –2015 Leisure Unity, and armed when Rving, except in Canada

David Howard

Some states, like Illinois where I reside, require you to tell the officer if you are armed if you are asked. While you are not required, as some states do require you to inform the officer immediately that you are armed, when asked you are obligated to inform him or her. Failing to do could result in the suspension or revocation of your license to carry a concealed firearm.

Tom Wilson

Mike, we were told in our CHL training about 10 years ago that if stopped by law enforcement for any reason, the best thing to do is to hand the CHL along with the driver’s license to the officer. The thought was that it would open the conversation for the officer to ask about weapons. Then when he did, to tell him where they were and leave it to him how to proceed. After all that has happened in law enforcement over the last few years, is this still good advice?

Billy Bob Thorton

Ditto, no disrespect to the retired police officer, however, you are a law abiding citizen (assumed), that being the case, you should be polite, courteous but provide only the necessary information requested. One caveat, one liberal state has made it required to re-apply for your carry permit, thus building a state database of gun holders in that state (guess which state). Therefore, that being the case, you need to address your reply to the questioning officer appropriately.

Joe Allen

Excellent answer Mike to the question about being stopped and questioned. One should always cooperate with law enforcement as they are just doing their job and we can make it easier or harder for them. I have had a concealed carry for over 30 years and never had to pull my weapon. However, when pulled over, I have my drivers license and CCW in my hand and explain to the officers that I have a loaded weapon and it’s on me. I fully respect law enforcement and the perilous duties they perform each and every day and in the end, just want to get home safely to their loved ones as we do ours! Thank you for keeping us safe!

Warmonk

If you have a smartphone, get the app called “Legal Heat”.

Always up to date it covers all 50 states.

ren

Don’t take legal advice from an RV internet board, or the comments section, for that matter.
You do not have to say anything.
Look up “consensual conversation”.
If an officer asks you anything like “where are you headed”, you can say 5 words: “I have nothing to say”.
Some may not like this comment.

Rory R

I have only been stopped a few times and twice I was asked if I had a weapon. I responded, a shot gun, unloaded and stored in basement storage. The officer thanked me, wished me a good safe trip. Folded up his book, walked to his patrol car and drove away. What is the big deal, if you have a weapon say so. If you tick him off, there is the inconvenient extra delay, and if a search does occur before or after your arrest, there will be hell to pay. Or you could be rolling down the hi-way….