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The NC General Assembly Orders DMV To Update Driver-Officer Guidelines

A picture of lights on a police car.
Alejandro Mejía Greene/JubiloHaku
Flickr Creative Commons

The General Assembly has ordered the DMV to update guidelines in its handbook and drivers' ed curriculum about how drivers and officers act during traffic stops.

Eddie Caldwell, General Counsel of the North Carolina Sheriff's Association, said motorists are often confused that what they say or do could seem threatening to an officer and that new guidelines could prevent future misunderstandings.

“It certainly should minimize the stress that motorists have and the stress that officers have if everybody is operating in the same manner,” Caldwell said. “The idea is to make it very straightforward, very simple, not very detailed, and very easy for folks to understand and implement.”

But the ACLU said in a letter to the DMV commissioner that the guidelines are unconstitutional. They urge drivers to answer all officers' questions without regard to the drivers' right to remain silent.

Caldwell said traffic stops are a high stress situation for all parties involved, and officers and motorists often have different expectations. For instance, Caldwell said, many drivers think they should get out their driver's license and registration as soon as they’re pulled over.

“So they're frantically trying to get their wallet or their purse, get their glove compartment open to try and get the registration out,” he said. “All that movement to an officer is very suspicious. And the officer doesn't know if they're trying to get a gun, a knife, they're trying to hide drugs. The expectations are totally different.”

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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