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What to do when Stopped by Law Enforcement

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

As a retired law enforcement officer, one of the most popular questions my students ask about is what to do when stopped by Law Enforcement. The first question is typically “Do I have to tell the Officer that I’m armed??”. In some states upon first contact with an Officer you are required to immediately inform the Officer that you have a firearm.

While that is not a requirement in Florida, I usually ask students how they would feel if they were the Officer. Personally, I would be very appreciative of having that information. You certainly wouldn’t want to leave the Officer uniformed and then have the gun slide out or suddenly come into view as you get your Registration and Insurance ID Card out of the glovebox.

Florida does require that you have your Concealed Weapons License (CWL) in your possession if/when you are carrying. So why not just present the Officer your CWL with your Driver’s License. This brings up a subtle issue of timing and your movements in the vehicle. If you start fidgeting about in your pockets or glovebox as the Officer is approaching, it will most likely cause the Officer some concern.

If you can and do have your wallet handy then present the Officer with your Operator’s License and CWL keeping your other hand in plain view on the steering wheel while advising the Officer that you are carrying.

Now, what about someone who has a handgun in the vehicle but does NOT possess a CWL (legal in Florida). In that case I would suggest having both hands on the steering wheel, advising the Officer of the gun and its location. Then follow the Officer’s instructions. The Officer may want to secure the gun or may want you to step out so as not to be within arm’s reach of it.

At the end of the day, it’s your actions and demeanor that are going to have a big impact on how this traffic stop ends (also factoring in the reason for the stop.)

Written by: Ret. Sgt. Zeke Mathena

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