There is now guidance in the Minnesota Driver's Manual for what a motorist should do when they're legally carrying a gun and are stopped by police.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with Valerie Castile, announced the changes Monday, four years to the day after her son Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in which he told the officer he had a gun.
The new guidance details what someone should and shouldn't do when a driver is pulled over and they have a gun. It also describes what drivers should expect from the police when they're pulled over.
"It brings delight that the Department of Public Safety has reupdated the driver's manual because this little tidbit is very, very important," Valerie Castile said during a news conference announcing the change. "That bit of information can save lots of lives because you don't know what you're going to get when the police walk up to your car."
DPS Commissioner John Harrington said Valerie Castile pushed for these changes to the driver's manual so both drivers and police know what to expect during a traffic stop to keep everyone safe. He noted including such guidance wasn't on DPS' radar when she brought it up, even though other states have this information in their driver's manuals.
“I want to thank Valerie Castile for bringing this change forward. Ms. Castile has worked tirelessly with DPS to advance ideas that will increase safety,” Harrington said in the news release. “Traffic stops can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially when officers and drivers aren’t on the same page. Both drivers and officers can help to make traffic stops safer by being better informed. We see the added language to the driver’s manual as guidance for drivers and law enforcement so there is greater consistency in how these situations are handled.”
Valerie Castile sought this change and is one of 28 recommendations a working group on deadly police encounters recommended, Harrington said.
What to expect when being pulled over
The state driver's manual already had some guidance for drivers for when they're stopped by law enforcement, but it didn't go into much detail about traffic stops, especially if you're a driver who has a gun in the car other than saying: "If you have a weapon or firearm in the vehicle, inform the officer upon first contact."
That guidance still applies, but the new additions to the manual further detail what you should do when you're pulled over and have a gun. The manual says:
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel so they're easily observable and don't reach around the car
- Let the officer know you have a gun right away
- Tell the officer where the gun is
- Don't get out of the vehicle unexpectedly or approach the officer
The driver's manual also now describes what motorists can expect, in most cases, from law enforcement during a traffic stop:
- The officer will greet you and identify themselves as a law enforcement officer
- The officer will ask for your driver's license and proof of insurance
- The officer will inform you of the reason they stopped you and explain the circumstances for issuance of the citation or warning
- The officer will check the validity and authenticity of your driver's license
The new guidance can be found starting on page 40 of the Minnesota Driver’s Manual.
Philando Castile, a Black man who worked in an elementary school cafeteria, was pulled over in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016, and was fatally shot soon after telling then-officer Jeronimo Yanez he had a gun. Officials later learned he had a permit to carry.
The aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend who was in the car. His death sparked days of protests in the Twin Cities.
Yanez was charged in his death but in 2017 was acquitted, sparking more protests.
Soon after the trial, Valerie Castile reached a nearly $3 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony.