What to Do When You Get Pulled Over by the Police

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 15, 2013 · 192 comments

in Manly Knowledge, Travel & Leisure

pulledover



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You’re driving home from work and your mind drifts from the events of the day to who would win some hypothetical historical matchups. Like, if say Teddy Roosevelt and Sasquatch stepped into the ring, who would come out the victor? Would TR’s boxing and wrestling prowess win the day, or would Sasquatch’s brute strength be too much for the prez to overcome?

Little do you realize, your foot is getting heavier and heavier on the gas as you imagine this battle for the ages. Pretty soon, you’re going 58 MPH in a 45 MPH zone and you don’t even know it. Just as you imagine Teddy perform a Sasquatch Suplex, the flash of red and blue lights in your rearview mirror brings you back to reality.

Crap. You’re getting pulled over. Stupid Sasquatch Suplex.

I can still remember the first time I got stopped by the police. My heart sank in my chest, my palms started sweating, and I was nervous as all get out. I had no clue what I was supposed to do. Where should I pull over? Do I turn my car off? Should I have my license and insurance ready before the officer arrives at my window?

While getting pulled over by the police is never a pleasant experience (unless you enjoy paying traffic fines), there are a few things you can do to make it less stressful for both you and the officer. To find out what you should do if you’re ever pulled over in a traffic stop, I talked to AoM readers Phil Hull, a police officer from Georgia, and Andy, an attorney also from Georgia. (Georgia AoM readers were really responsive to my tweets asking for help. Southern hospitality for the win!)

Note: This article focuses on traffic stops for minor traffic violations like speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or having a broken taillight. It also assumes that you’re not doing anything criminal like driving while intoxicated or possessing illegal drugs. That’s a whole other ball game. Also, this article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Put Yourself in the Officer’s Shoes

According to Phil, the first thing that citizens need to know about traffic stops is how extremely dangerous they are for officers. “Traffic stops are one of the most dangerous and unpredictable aspects of law enforcement — second only to domestic disputes,” he says. Statistics back up Phil’s claim. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, traffic stops are one of the leading causes of police deaths. What makes traffic stops so hazardous?

First, there’s the danger that the pulled-over motorist poses to the officer. Sudden and violent attacks are common. Dozens of officers are killed each year by gun fire during traffic stops. The second threat officers face while making stops is traffic. Officers getting hit by passing vehicles is, sadly, too common.

Knowing the dangers that traffic stops pose to officers should guide your actions whenever you see those flashing lights behind you. The advice that follows boils down to two key points: 1) pull over to a safe area and 2) don’t do or say anything that will make the officer think you’re a threat. Below we flesh out this bit of general advice.

What to Do When You Get Pulled Over by the Police

Acknowledge the officer by turning on flashers. To let the officer know that you’ve seen his lights and that you plan on pulling over, turn on your emergency flashers. Phil recommends you do this if you think you’ll need to drive a distance before you can find a safe place to pull over.

Pull over to a safe area. Typically, you want to pull over to the right side of the road. When looking for a spot to pull over to, think “safety first” for both you and the officer. Phil recommends looking for an area with a wide shoulder so passing traffic isn’t a hazard. If it’s nighttime, look for place that’s well lit if possible. That will help put the officer at ease. Parking lots and well-lit side streets are other safe places to pull over to.

“If you need to travel a short distance to pull over, do so at a slower pace than you normally drive,” Phil recommends. You don’t want the officer to think you’re trying to make a getaway. Also, if you need to cross multiple lanes to pull over to the right-hand side of the road, do so safely.

Stay in the car. If you get out of the car as soon as you stop, it may give the impression to the officer that you’re going to be aggressive or you have something to hide in the car. Just keep your bum in your seat.

Turn off engine, roll down window, and turn on your dome lights. As soon as you come to a stop, turn off your engine and roll down your window. If it’s dark out, turn on your dome light so the officer can see what’s going on inside the vehicle as he approaches.

Stay calm. It’s common to get amped up whenever you get pulled over. Take some deep breaths and relax. Unless you’ve done something outright criminal (i.e. driving intoxicated, possessing illegal drugs, etc.) there’s nothing to be nervous about. The worst that can happen during a routine traffic stop is that you’ll have to pay a fine. Oh, and your insurance will probably go up. Pretty sucky, but not the end of the world.  If it helps, it’s good to remind yourself that the officer is probably nervous too.

Stay still and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Keep your hands resting on the wheel and remain still as the officer approaches your vehicle. You don’t want to give him or her any reason to believe you’re a threat.

If you plan on fighting your ticket, keep answers short and don’t directly admit wrongdoing. Everything you say to an officer is admissible in court, so if you plan on fighting your ticket, Andy suggests not saying anything that indicates you are guilty. Officers will typically ask questions to get some sort of admission out of you when they first walk up to your window. For example, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Don’t say, “I was speeding, sir.” Simply say, “No” or, “I don’t know.”

But sometimes, saying “I’m sorry” works. However, Andy states that sometimes it doesn’t pay to be coy like this with the officer, and that it’s better to just fess up and apologize. “If you accidentally roll through a stop sign and immediately apologize, they may let you off with a warning.” If you don’t plan on fighting your ticket, just say, “I’m sorry, officer. I was imagining Teddy Roosevelt with Sasquatch in a headlock. I’ll pay more attention next time.” I’ve gotten off with just a warning a few times by saying those words, showing the officer some courtesies, and being polite

Wait for the officer to ask for your documents. Don’t try to expedite the process by getting your license and registration ready while the officer approaches your car. For all he knows you could be reaching for a gun or trying to hide some sort of incriminating evidence. Wait until he or she gets to the window and asks for your documents.

Move deliberately. When you do reach to get your license and registration, do so deliberately. “A quick reach into the glove compartment for your insurance paperwork looks the same as a quick reach into your glove compartment for a weapon,” says Phil. If your wallet is in a gym bag in your backseat, let the officer know before you turn around and rummage for it. Quick Tip: Try to keep your glove compartment relatively organized, and your documents together, so that when you pull the box open, you don’t have to frantically sort through 20-year-old maps and wads of receipts to find your registration.

If you’re carrying a gun, let the officer know. Some states have laws that require concealed carry owners to inform officers that they’re carrying a gun anytime they get pulled over. These are called “must inform” states. Officers are allowed to ask for and hold the weapon for the duration of the stop.

Even if you don’t live in a “must inform” state, as a courtesy to the officer, you might want to disclose the fact that you’re carrying. Nothing puts an officer on red alert like seeing a “print” of a gun through a motorist’s clothes.

Return hands to the steering wheel. After you’ve handed the officer your paperwork, return your hands to the steering wheel. “It keeps them visible to the officer,” says Phil.

Be civil. Be polite and respectful in your communications with the officer. Yes, it sucks to get a ticket, but calling the officer names, threatening him, and being rude won’t get you anywhere. In fact, it could make things worse. If the officer happens to be a woman, refer to her as “officer” or “ma’am,” not “sweetheart” or “honey.” She’s an officer of the law, show some respect.

You don’t have to consent to a search. In order to search your vehicle without your consent, an officer needs probable cause – maybe he smells something in the car or sees a bottle on your seat. If he doesn’t have probable cause but wants to search your car anyway, he’ll need your consent and may ask you something like, “You don’t mind me taking a look in your car, do you?” Even if you haven’t done anything illegal, it’s usually a good idea to exercise your Fourth Amendment right in this situation and decline the search. “While you may believe you have nothing to hide, you never know what could come up.  Maybe a friend left an empty beer can in your back seat during a tailgate party, and the officer will charge you with an open container violation,” Andy explains. Politely decline the search by saying, “I don’t consent to a search, officer,” loud enough so it gets on the police recorder. That’s it.

Don’t argue. “The side of the road is not the place to argue a charge,” says Phil. If you want to contest the ticket, you can do so in court and in front of a judge.

Sign the citation. If the officer decides to issue a citation, he’ll ask you to sign it. Sign it. It’s not an admission of guilt, it’s just recognition that you’ve received the citation and that you promise to either 1) pay the fine or 2) show up to court on the designated date. “A signature on a citation in most jurisdictions is in lieu of you posting a cash bond. Posting a cash bond generally consists of a trip to the nearest jail or judge and may include a booking process and fingerprinting. It is always easier to sign the ticket,” says Phil.

Be safe when merging back into traffic. Phil recommends taking your time to store your belongings before you re-enter traffic. “If you’re upset, collect yourself before driving away.” When you’re ready, turn on your signal and merge back into traffic. This time, avoid any mental fight simulations involving Teddy Roosevelt and Sasquatch until you get home and are safely ensconced in your man chair. Stay safe out there.

Got any traffic stop stories? Any other tips you should follow when getting pulled over by the police? Share them with us in the comments!

Thank you to Phil and Andy for offering their advice for this article.

{ 192 comments… read them below or add one }

101 matt g February 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

I’ve found that officers want to know if you are not carrying just as much as if you are. He may already know if you have a permit. I use the following line: (Hands on wheel) “I want to infirm you that I have a carry permit, and that I am/am not armed.” Last time, the officer said “Thanks… if you don’t draw yours, I won’t draw mine.”

102 Calvin A. February 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

I have a serious problem with police officers running my firearm serial number “to see if it is stolen”. Where is the probably cause? I haven’t seen a court case on this but this is, in my opinion, an illegal search. There is a place that makes special tape that you can put over the serial number at which point it is not in plain view, but I don’t understand why police officers automatically assume that they have the right to detain you while checking something that they had no reason to check in the first place. This is one reason why I don’t generally tell the officer that I am carrying unless it is totally obvious. I also switched my wallet to my left back pocket when I started carrying on my right hip.

Other than that, all great advice. Never consent to any sort of search, be polite, don’t admit anything. If they ask you to get out of the car, you might also think about locking the car and putting the key in your pocket to make it harder for them to conduct a search illegally.

The fact is, you don’t need protection from the vast majority of reasonable and good cops out there, but it only takes one bad officer to put you in serious trouble.

103 Evan O. February 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

Should you be carrying a concealed weapon, I highly recommend handing over your concealed carry permit along with your license when their officer asks for your papers. Generally, they’ll just ask where the weapon is located. Tell them. This is good practice, especially should you be traveling in a state where your permit is honored (i.e., I’m from FL, many other states honor my permit, but some do not) — that way, if it’s a must inform state and you’re not sure you can go ahead and ensure compliance.

104 Marie February 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I find it interesting that so few commenters state the obvious: that if you actually follow the law (don’t speed!) you’re far less likely to be pulled over in the first place. Why do people speed all the time? I’ve been there with feeling the pressure for a late and important appointment but very rarely does speeding do anything but get you to the next light a little faster (try driving the speed limit and watch the speeders around you and how frequently you both end up stopped together at the same light). And the risks of being in an accident (or causing one in your wake – that you may not ever even be aware of) are very high compared to if you drive the speed limit. Just not worth it, even in the rare case where you might get to your destination a few minutes sooner.

105 Stephen February 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Calvin, more than 400 years of English/American legal history requires the officer to presume that your firearm has not been stolen unless overwhelming evidence to the contrary is present.

Presumption of innocence by police is mandatory. On-site examination of all potentially exculpatory evidence by police is mandatory.

The fact that we’re having this conversation right now means that, to quote “V,” “something is terribly wrong with this country.”

106 Tony February 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Wrong. Do not sign the ticket. Ever. If you do so you are admitting you stand under the Traffic Act and will accept the fine or judge’s decision. Accept the ticket under duress, instead.

Source: I was a traffic cop for 5 years.

107 Jon February 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Young women, when being pulled over by an UNMARKED police car should ALWAYS find a public place (a McDonalds parking lot… anywhere beside a spot on the side of the road). Many predators masquerade as cops and either attack young women during the “stop” or record their address and attack them in their homes.

Another option is to call 911 to confirm that the officer is, in fact, legitimate BEFORE pulling over.

There’s an internet hoax about dialing 112 or something, but it’s a hoax.

108 Jared February 17, 2013 at 6:50 pm

112 is not a hoax, its the emergency number in most of europe. So if you get pulled over in europe or witness any trouble dial 112.

109 Peter February 17, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Ugh, please stop saying the 112 emergency number is a hoax. It isn’t. It’s the designated number for emergencies everywhere in the EU, and it’s also designated as an emergency number in the GSM standard. That means it’ll work on any GSM mobile phone anywhere in the world. In the US it just redirects to 911.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/112_(emergency_telephone_number)

110 J R E February 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Ran through a red light (unknowingly) because I wasn’t paying attention to the light, as a cop was trying to turn into the lane I was in, coming pretty close to a collision. He kindly waved me ahead and popped those red and blues. Now I thought for sure I was about to get, at the very least, a nice big ticket, but as I was raised to do I addressed him as sir at all times, admitted I simply hadn’t noticed the light change, and offered an apology. After running my license and such he comes back, returns my information, and very jokingly says ‘Next time watch out for those red lights.’ and walked away. Just goes to show honesty and courtesy can get you out of an almost sure thing, so always treat Law Enforcement with the utmost respect. Who knows, could save you a hefty fine someday.

111 Steve February 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm

The best experience I’ve had with a traffic cop happened as I was driving on the PA Turnpike. The cop hits his light bar and I pull over. He pulls up on the right-hand side (there was a wide gravel area on the right, leading to an overpass and turnaraound) and rolls down the window while giving me the “roll down your window” finger gesture. I comply and he just yells, “Slow down!” and takes off, slinging a bunch of gravel.

112 TR February 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm

One time I got pulled over in a rented cargo van with my friend driving doing like 70 in a 55. It was right before a toll booth so the speed limit had dropped. We have a third guy sitting in the back in a lawn chair. When the lights come on we try to hide him on the floor under all our bags. The cop pulls us over. “So, how many people you have in this van?” My friend tells the truth, and the cop goes, “I don’t know what he’s doing back there, he could be hiding and trying to snipe me or something.” At this point my friend offers the wonderful explanation “I was on the phone and I missed the speed limit sign.” AND HE GETS OFF WITH A WARNING! Unbelievable. Yet I can’t get off doing 12 over for a split second in a similar situation… driving a rental van and picked up too much speed on a downhill less than 5 miles after I picked it up.

113 Tyler S February 18, 2013 at 12:19 am

Valentine’s Day weekend, 2009: going from a concert in Norfolk, VA to Charlottesville to meet up with a girl. Running on 5 hours’ sleep in the last 24 hours, so I figured going fast would help me stay awake. The trooper who pulled me over didn’t see eye to eye, and at the eventual court hearing I did 4 days in jail for doing 129 in a 65.

114 Tim February 18, 2013 at 4:07 am

Its a shame that this article needs to exist at all. Here in Australia being pulled over is very casual, no one is sweating over if they’re going to be shot or not.

115 Ryan February 18, 2013 at 6:43 am

I have a six-year-old daughter, and one morning caught her lying to me and gave her a long lecture on honesty, integrity and keeping your word true. Of course, later that day I was pulled over for driving 7km/hr over the limit, and the policeman asked, “Do you have a valid reason for…”. I gestured to my kid, and said, “No, sir, I did the wrong thing, wasn’t concentrating and it’s my fault, and I will accept the consequences, I can’t very well teach my girl to lie.” He fined me double. Some cops are just like that.

Another point, I notice much of the discussion revolving around how to handle announcing you have a gun. Here in Australia, nobody can carry as much as a pocket knife without a lawful reason to have it — ie going camping — and therefore if a gun is present, you can bet you’re about to have a very bad day.

116 John February 18, 2013 at 8:14 am

I too assumed that you always wait in the car when stopped by a cop, as is the practice in New York state, where I live.

But when I was stopped in Florida years ago, on one of the Keys, the officer stayed in his car and ordered me via his megaphone to get out of mine.

117 Frankie February 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

Oh yes, be a good little surf and treat the “officer” with respect. BS!!! Traffic court is an Illegal court in which the presumption of innocence is not provided. Here’s the shortest bestest way to handle any traffic stop.
1) Immediately fetch your “papers” Lic, Reg, and Insurance card before he steps up to the car (who give two flying shittes what he’s afraid of).
2) When he speaks to you or asks his opening question simply tell him that you decline to answer any questions and have him understand that you are waiting for his instructions to let you know when you are freel to leave, decline any search requests and provide your papers only when asked.
3) After your initial statement SHUT UP, say nothing more to the “officer”.
4) Object or no to the tickey you’ve given him nothing to use in court and you offered only cooperation to his requests for ID. That is your ONLY civic responsiblity, and it is highly adviseable you do NOTHING more.

Anything else only ads to his evidence against you.

118 Eric at a LEGO a Day February 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

Totally agree with all these points, and I firmly believe they have helped me out of a ticket more than once.

Being difficult because it’s your “right” is just stupid. If I can lessen the penalties for my actions by “sucking up” for a few moments, it’s well worth it to my bank account.

I pity the people who go out of there way to be difficult in any situation presented to them. I can only assume you have a low quality of life, and need to take it out on everyone around you.

119 Justin February 18, 2013 at 9:29 am

Carry disclosure advice from a professional instructor: Know the laws of the state you’re in. If you must inform, then do so. If you don’t have to inform until asked, then I strongly encourage you not to until asked or it’s about to be discovered. Then, say, “I have a permit and am carrying, what would you like me to do?” KNOW THE INFORM LAWS of the state you’re in or you may just end up a felon (aggregious–I know)! You have rights. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS and also DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH.

120 Moeregaard February 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

Refusing to answer ANY questions can get you a quick trip to the slammer while your vehicle will get towed to an impound lot.

In my area, two questions they always ask is for a phone number and a place of employment. I give them the number, but inform them that I will refuse to discuss the ticket over the phone, since I don’t know who is on the other end, and that if further discussion is required they need to request it in writing on their company letterhead, and we’ll take it from there.

When they ask who I work for, I tell them that I’m either unemployed or self-employed. Technically, I’m lying to them, but it gets the subject off the table quickly, and they may take pity with the apparent lack of employment and let me off with a warning.

Finally, just be polite. I’ve known folks who work in law enforcement, and one of them likened the job to shoveling cr*p uphill. These folks have to deal on a daily basis with the worst that human nature can hand out.

121 JonathanL February 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

I’ve only ever been pulled over once, for rolling a stop right next to a cop because I was too busy listening to ZZ Top on the wayt o my third shift job, when the streets were almost always empty anyway. As soon as I saw the police car behind me I knew I was busted. I did everything like this article says, I admitted that I knew what I did (I’m honest to a fault), and the officer told me he wouldn’t mar my record, but to be careful next time.

In another instance, I had a cruiser follow me for several blocks without ever turning its lights on, even following me into the corporate complex parking lot where I worked. I didn’t do anything wrong, so I drove carefully but otherwise normally, and it ultimately left. Don’t know why they followed me. But I’d rather be pulled over than tailed.

122 Mike L. February 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

I was 20 years old, on a college campus, had a date in the passenger seat and did a burn out showing off. About 100 feet later I’m pulled over. I had a clean record and was probably visibly embarrassed and very apologetic, the officer talked mostly to my date asking if she was impressed by my actions etc. basically humiliating in front of my date. He must have thought that was bad enough so I didn’t get a ticket.

123 Brandon February 18, 2013 at 11:44 am

I may be the only one to admit it, or maybe I live in an area with douchy cops, but the cop has never let me out of anything by following these procedures, which I always do. I’ve never been shot or harrassed either, so I guess that’s all I can ask for. From a legal point-of-view, if you know you have done something wrong, refuse to tell them or do anything besides giving your ID and registration, and if they insist, politely decline and tell them that they are scaring you. When it goes to court, it’s all about evidence, and if you don’t say or give them any evidence, your chances are a lot higher.

124 MJ February 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm

This guy was pulled over for speeding. Officer says, “I’ve been waiting for you all day.” Guy looks at the officer and says, “I got here as quick as I could.”

125 Fred February 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm

For those saying that folks should volunteer information. Listen, I have family that are LEOs I respect LEOs. Go to You Tube and look up “Never talk to cops” there is a two part video of a law professor and then a LEO and they both explain why you should never volunteer more information than you are required to. It has nothing to do with being a jerk to “The Man” and while I can see a few chips on a few shoulders in these comments, you can respectfully decline to provide information. The Constitution is there for a reason.

126 Mick February 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm

The last time I encountered an Officer was at a checkpoint, I immediately informed him that I was carrying concealed and presented him with my DL and CCP. I got a tip of a cap from him and a “have a good night.” Moral: Don’t be a jackass to an Officer, 99% are good guys and ladies just doing their job like all of us. A little mutual respect goes a long way.

127 Chris February 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Informing the officer of your firearm is a really touchy subject. The best way I’ve found for doing this is handing them your CHP at the same time you hand them your licence. Other then that for the love of god don’t say “I have a gun”. That’s just a bad idea.

128 lepoer February 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I agree with all of the information. I have a concealed carry permit in a state that no longer requires a permit. I have been pulled over four times for speeding on my motorcycle while carrying. I always start the conversation off by informing the LEO that I am carrying while my hands are very clearly on the handlebars. Of those times they were mostly positive.

Previously, I talked with the officer about my carry gun and the motorcycle. Two of those interactions resulted in verbal warnings. I attribute this to my being open and honest.

The one exception was when I when the LEO responded that he could probably outdraw me. That and he told me that I did not need a permit to carry concealed anymore in my state. It caught me as odd, but I told him that I keep my permit current because many neighboring states have reciprocity with mine. It was weird, but I still believe that honesty is the best policy.

129 Peter February 19, 2013 at 5:37 am

I still remember the first time I got pulled over by a Police Officer. I was 18 and just got my driving license. Driving the family MOSKVITCH – / its a Russian Car made in USSR in 1970′s to 1980′s / my father next to me and my mother at the back seat. And suddenly we saw Police officer waving his baton. Tried to push the brake pedal as gently as I could and when the car was nearly stopped to my great surprise I saw my mother shouting at the man – “Don’t you see, He’s a new driver / those days drivers with less than a year experience had to apply special sticker on the windshield /, what’s the big traffic violation he’s done?
Smiling, the Police officer said: “Just a routine check, Madam! Please continue on your way :)

130 Greg February 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

Along with turning on your dome light, the officer will most likely ask you to roll down your rear windows if you have tints. This has also saved me once before when I had illegal tints. I rolled my windows down before the officer walked up, and he never noticed.

131 BFox February 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm

What’s with people being so scared of cops and holding up the Constitution as an excuse to act however you want during a traffic stop? Turn the dome lights on, let the officer know you have a gun (though I wouldn’t go so far as to offer to let him take it), and just do what he asks. It’s not like he’s out there because it’s a fun happy time, he’s there to do his job. Don’t be a dick and you’ll find that not only will your traffic stops be less frequent, they’ll also be a lot less of a problem. I’ve been pulled over three times in three different states, and doing basically everything that’s outlined here has ended with me never getting a ticket, just a couple of warnings.

Relax, people.

132 Paul February 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I’ve been pulled over a few times. I’m generally nice, but I got *very* irate at some Border Patrol in South Texas years ago. I was doing some field work in a NWR, collecting rattlers (specifically C. atrox) to weigh, pit tag, sex and measure (using a squeezebox). It wasn’t my project but it was a good experience, learned a lot. Gather ‘em up, take them back to the facility, take ‘em back to the same GPS coords as you captured them at.

After getting stopped 3 times by the same BP agent in 2 hours? Yep, I let him look in the bucket. I had permits and paperwork in order so…

133 Higgy February 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I’ve only been stopped once and it was just at a check point, not an actual flashy lights pull over. The dude just stuck his head straight in my window and was like “Where you coming from today sir?” I just said, “the cinema” then he just pulled his head back out the car and said, “have a nice day” and waved me through lol.

That’s the RCMP for ya =) (Canadian police btw)

134 Mitch February 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm

The last time I got pulled over was later at night over my Christmas Break on a back road. The officer was at the bottom of a hill that I usually coast down and then up the next hill to save a little gas (not sure if it actually helps at all). I picked up a little too much speed and he flipped on the lights. I immediately turned on the hazards and slowed way down as there was a little ways before a safe place to pull over. I pulled way off the road, rolled down the windows, put on the dome lights and waited for him to approach. The first thing I said was “Good evening, officer. Is this a safe location for you?” I was let off with a warning for going 17 over. I think this initial politeness and respect for the potential hazard in the situation made the difference in paying a ticket a broke college kid doesn’t have the money for and getting a polite warning.

135 Me February 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Got pulled over once. Not signalling. Cop waited for 3 turns before he pulled me over. He asked if I knew and I said, ya I, stopped this morning on the way to work. I just had to go to the bank then was on my way to get it fixed. He didn’t believe me(while he watched me leave the bank) and gave me a ticket. He was a douche-even the other cops said he was.

When they say do you know why I pulled you over NEVER say yes. If you where speeding and he pulled you over for a taillight you just got another ticket. And truthfully you don’t know why you got pulled over-you can;t read the officers mind.

136 BIllyBob February 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

@Higgy When the RC’s stick there heads in the car they are smelling for alcohol, and looking at your seatbelt. Quick, simple and effective.

137 Greg, PA February 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I was taught that using words like “gun” or telling an officer you’re armed will immediately throw him into danger mode, so it’s best to hand the officer your concealed carry permit along with your other paperwork and allow him to ask whether or not you’re armed – it starts the exchange off under the presumption that you’re legally permitted to carry a weapon.

138 John February 20, 2013 at 1:49 am

As a black man, I always thought I would have a pretty bad first experience with the police due to my skin color and racist stereotypes.

It was a pleasant surprise for me when I finally did get pulled over for my first traffic stop a month ago. This muscular, armed, shades-wearing white police officer tipped his hat at me first, then gestured at me to roll down my window. I did, and he asked “Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”. I said no and he told me that I had gone past a stop sign at the previous intersection. I explained that I had not seen it. He then smiled and said “Yeah, I figured that was it. Anyway, now you know it’s there. Have a nice day.”

He then tipped his hat at me again and went on his way. He didn’t even ask for my license and registration.

139 Mike February 20, 2013 at 8:18 am

One evening, as I was driving over to visit my girlfriend (I’m in my 40′s), I was pulled over by the Sherriff’s department right as I turned into her neighborhood. My dad is a retired LEO, so I know the drill. I turned on my dome light and kept my hands on the wheel as they approached.

One officer swung a little wide with his flashlight on my face and his other hand on his gun, and the other angled somewhat behind and closer to the car. Both maintained “safe” angles slightly behind me. They were certainly acting like I was a threat. Not good.

Immediately, the one who was closest asked me if I had any weapons. No. Next they asked for my liscence and registration. I said, “my liscence is in my back pocket, so I’m getting my wallet.” Once I handed that over, I said, “my registration is in the glove compartment,” and moved very slowly to get it.

After they had called both in, they asked me what I was doing there (the tension still hadn’t gone away). I told them I was visiting my girlfriend.

They asked what her address was. I didn’t know it. They then asked for her phone number. I gave it. They called her, asking her if she knew me and was expecting me. Talk about a shocking phone call!

After they spoke with her, they both very visibly relaxed. They had received a call about a suspicious red car that looked like it was casing the neighborhood. Since mine was the first red car they spotted…

It was tense.

140 Mike February 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

As a street cop in California for the last 26 years, I thought maybe I’d add a little more to the discussion.

Yes, Calvin A, if I ask you to get out of the car, you might think about locking the car and putting the key in your pocket to make it harder for me to search. I might then think about breaking your window to conduct that search. If I have the right to conduct a search, I do not need your permission or your cooperation if you don’t want to offer it. But again…if I have the right, I’m going to conduct the search anyway. Your call as to how I get into the car at that point.

Marie: you’re my new hero.

Stephen: perhaps you’re not from the US. However, I’m not required to presume anything about your guilt or innocence here in the US. The Courts are required to consider you innocent until proven guilty, not me. I can presume you or your property to be anything I want, provided that I act lawfully and do not let my presumptions cause me to do otherwise. I also have no obligation to locate or examine “all potentially exculpatory evidence” on your behalf, only that which I become aware of.

Tony, if you were a traffic cop for five years in the US, I suspect I know why you are not today. If you do not sign the ticket in California, you will go to jail. Period. Always. Your signature is actually required by law in my state.

Eric, you said it beautifully, so I just want to repeat what you said: “Being difficult because it’s your “right” is just stupid.”

Moeregaard, you may also not be in the US but refusing “…to answer ANY questions can get you a quick trip to the slammer while your vehicle will get towed to an impound lot” is just not an accurate statement. In most cases in the US, you’re not required to answer much of anything on a traffic stop and there’s not a lot I can do if you won’t. If this is a concern for you, I’d ask the officer if your answer is required and if so, I certainly wouldn’t lie. In my state, one of the VERY few times you can get arrested for lying to me is during the issuance of a traffic citation.

Again, I realize some of you might not be in the US. But I think that makes the point that if you’re going to post hard-and-fast rules about what to do during a traffic stop, you need to explain what country or even state you’re taking this position in before you help someone else get themselves into some deep trouble.

141 Steven P February 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

“You don’t have to consent to a search.”

They also need a warrant, unless you’re stupid enough to say ‘yes.’ If they do search you or your car without a warrant or your consent, repeat that you do not consent to the search. Anything incriminating found on your person or in your vehicle will immediately be tossed out in court.

Never offer any extra information, and just answer yes or no questions with yes or no. Don’t lie, that can become an even bigger issue besides being pulled over for speeding.

Always remember your rights. You have a right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions beyond identifying yourself. Never volunteer information.

If you have been detained or arrested, you do not need to give any information except your name, and state that you want a lawyer. You have the right to have an attorney present for questioning if you have been detained or arrested.

If they ask you to step out of the car, you have to. If they do a pat down, they can do that, but make sure you mention that you do not consent to any other searches.

If he asks you where you are going, you don’t have to tell him a thing. That’s your business. Never volunteer any information.

Remember your rights and assert them!

142 George February 21, 2013 at 5:48 am

I was pulled over once by an angry cop who said I was doing 45 in a 30. He said he was trying to stop me for a mile with siren and lights. Trouble was the road was only 1/2 mile, there WAS no one behind me until he just shows up, he was in the wrong town. I was ticketed and the charge is still on my driving record 10 yrs later. Of course my insurance went up quite a bit also. I used to respect cops that I didn’t question his story. Should have fought it in court but didn’t know any better. Now I do.

143 James February 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

“Mundane, you were traveling at a speed higher than the arbitrarily-determined limit set by men in suits whose salaries are paid with your tax dollars. Now you owe me money.”

It would be much easier to deal with cops in countries like Mexico or Vietnam where a $20 makes the problem go away. Here in the “Land of the Free,” however, you have to go through this whole rigamarole, and still wind up paying $120-300 for just going faster than some goon with a badge thinks you should.

Always say “officer.” Never “sir.” It’s a power trip.

144 bob February 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

Last time I got pulled the officer yelled at and berated me for saying “i don’t know” (right on red with incomplete stop for the curious). This is mild for them here. They are not good people in my town.

145 Bruce February 21, 2013 at 10:35 am

I’ve had good luck over the course of the last few years in my dealings with the police. I’ve gotten warnings for speeding several times, usually in the 5-10 over range, but primarily I’ve gotten pulled over for having a balky headlight. My previous car’s left headlight had a tendency to short out and it always seemed to happen when I was on the road for work trips. I once got pulled over twice on the same trip and in fact showed the second State Trooper the warning I’d gotten on the way up after she pulled me over on my way home. These incidents taught me to never be defensive or get upset and to always look the officer in the eye when communicating. The last time I was pulled over the officer actually apologized to me for stopping me for turning on a red light, as he mistakenly thought there was a “No Turn On Red” sign posted. I’ve found a bit of good nature goes a long way.

146 Matt F February 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I got out of a ticket by being up-front and honest, but still contradictory to what the officer said.
It was about 1am and I was on a 65 mph road. He came up to my window and said he clocked me doing 88. I told him that I was speeding, that I would admit to that, but at no point did my speedometer pass 80. I said that I wouldn’t fight a ticket that said 80 on it, but I would go to court if it said 88. Then I told him that if my speedometer was broken, I would take it in the next day to be fixed.
He said that after midnight, he usually doesn’t care if it’s 15 mph or less over the limit and to get my speedometer checked. Thankfully, I got let off with a warning.

147 Emily February 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think we could all use a few lessons from the great Chris Rock on how not to get our butts kicked by the police! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj0mtxXEGE8

148 SN February 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm

In the state of Texas, if you are carrying, you must hand the officer your CHL the moment you hand over your DL. This is a good practice anyway because the officer will already know that you don’t have a criminal background.

My friends who are cops have told me that in Texas (this might not always be the case), there is a comfort in knowing that some agency already vetted you. It also helps that my plates say “US Paratrooper” on the bottom of them. Things like military service, EMS / Fire Dept affiliation, etc can only help your cause.

When I tell an officer I am carrying, I always tell him where. For example, hand over CHL/DL, and state “I am carrying, right hip.” Being upfront can only lesson the stress for him/her.

Drive safe and friendly out there. SN

149 Nick February 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Steven P, warrantless searches of vehicles are allowed if the officer has probable cause, so there’s no guarantee that anything found would be thrown out.

If asked to step out of the vehicle, make sure that you are not free to leave before doing so.

I don’t know how it is other places, but if you are stopped around here and are just hoping to get out of a ticket, then it’s in your best interest to be very honest and polite. It’s hard to beat a traffic ticket in court(not sure I’ve seen it unless you count the judge giving a DIP class in place of the ticket as ‘beating it’) so your best chance is probably the officer cutting you a break. As has been said before, if you don’t want a ticket, then follow the traffic laws.

I always tell people they should never consent to any searches or questioning. However, if you’re sure you were just pulled over for speeding/running a stop sign/other traffic violation, then it’s usually in your best interest to talk to the officer. I hesitate to say that because the police are allowed to lie to you, but most people know, or at least have an idea, why they are being stopped while driving.

150 Jim February 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I would not recommend turning on your emergency flashers. This is a sign of being over cautious and many LEO’s use the phrase felony flashers because many fugitives do this during a traffic stop to be “Extra Safe” Simply use your turn signal when pulling over.

151 Andrew February 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

I feel bad for the people commenting on here from Australia…no guns?? Terrible

152 Moeregaard February 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

This is for Mike, and before I add another comment I’d like to thank him for his 26 years of service. Working traffic in California is not something I’d want to do–and I live in California. This place is just nuts. My comment about playing loose and fast with the truth comes from personal experience. Back in the early ’80s, I decided to politely withhold my employment information from the issuing officer, because I didn’t feel it was relevant to the matter at hand. He informed me that I was required to answer ALL of his questions or face a trip to jail. He also added that “…the judge isn’t going to be happy when he sees ‘refused info’” on the ticket. All of this occurred after he ran my info and determined that I had no warrants. I’m a model of politeness when dealing with these folks, but feel that the only information they need to write and process a citation is that which is printed on my license and registration paperwork.

I would like to add that it’s good practice to pay a citation in person and insist on a receipt. When I paid my last one in 1989, I did so by mail and just forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when I tried renewing my license the following year and the DMV informed me that I had an unpaid citation. The court clerk was apologetic and corrected the problem, but I’d been traveling a lot for work and renting cars in several states with this thing sitting on my record.

153 Mike February 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

@ Tony
Sorry, but you are wrong. The article has it right, this is not an admission of guilt but a promise to do something with the ticket; pay it or contest it. I don’t know where you were a traffic cop but I am retired state police of 26 years and I’ve never known what you wrote to be true.

154 Andrew GG February 23, 2013 at 4:50 am

Sponsored by Milky Way?? Not Dunkin DOnuts or Krispy Kreme? I’m supremely confused..

On a serious note, great article. I am often surprised by friends who don’t know these basic formalities when we have an encounter with the authorities.. Even just keeping your hands always visible and showing basic courtesy/respect.

155 Tom February 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

Guy gets pulled over by a state trooper and leads him on a wild high speed chase. Finally apprehending him, the trooper finds out he has a totally clean record. Trooper asks, why did you run, seeing as how you have a clean record. Guy says, my wife ran off with a state trooper a few weeks ago, I thought you were trying to give her back.

156 Troy February 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm

About the whole ‘don’t say I was speeding just say ‘I don’t know”

I had read that if you claim you don’t know what you were doing the officer in question can (in theory and this would depend on WHERE of course) write you up for reckless driving or careless or something on those lines because you’re all but admitting you weren’t paying attention while you were driving.

Maybe someone in law enforcement can say ‘yay or nay’ to this? It’s just something I read a month or so ago.

Not to mention really… Why lie.. if you ran a stop sign for example. The cop knows you did. YOU know you did. Just tell the truth. (in my opinion).

157 Tom Arnold February 24, 2013 at 7:26 pm

What about for black people?

158 Jordan February 25, 2013 at 1:10 am

Not all police officers are rational human beings. I was pulled over on my bicycle last year, and the cop just got out of the car and started shouting. He seemed not to know that a bike is a vehicle. No matter how polite and proper you behave, there is always the chance of getting a crazy/unpredictable cop.

159 KierO February 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

Here in the UK we don’t have as clear cut rules about not consenting to a such.

However being friends with a few officers of the law I can fully assure you that being calm, and polite is the best thing to do. You may still get tickets/fines/point off your licence but escalating the situation with bad language and insults can get you arrested under section 5 of the public order act.

Many officers will give you a warning if you just listen to what they have to say and then apologise for any possible infringement of the law.

Speak as you would wish the officer to speak to you. Simple.

160 Brian February 26, 2013 at 11:43 am

Best traffic story ever…

I was driving home from a coworker’s party in the wee hours of the morning, 4am-ish. It was still dark and I passed a cop parked on the side of the road. I wasn’t speeding, but I get paranoid when I pass cops, so I was looking in my rearview mirror for the red and blue lights and neglected to stay in my lane. Of course, after a small swerve to stay on the road, there came the red and blue’s. I was literally 1 mile from being home. When the officer came to my window, my hands were on the dash board, arms through the steering wheel (much harder to make a sudden move that way). I rolled down my window, was polite and chipper as he checked out my reg and DL. He asked if I had been drinking, which I had not, and if I was heading home. He returned my documents and dismissed me.

For some reason, I didn’t learn my lesson and I still give too much attention my mirrors when I pass a cop.

161 James February 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I have to say, this was a very good article. The advice was very sound. As a former police officer, I must agree that politeness goes a LONG way. I once stopped two people for speeding along the same stretch of road with different outcomes. The first one I stopped was doing 65 in a 35. After I ran my checks and was reciting the “..by signing this, you are not admitting guilt…” part of the ticket, he stops me and rudely asks why I can’t change it to a warning. I told him, “Well, sir, you were doing 30 mph over the posted speed limit…” to which he interrupts me to say “That’s what’s wrong with you young cops, always trying to make a name for yourself by writing tickets!”. I’ll admit, a lot of things went through my mind at that point, but I just finished my “sign this ticket” line and told him to drive safe.

The second person that I stopped had similar circumstances (speeding, reciting the “sign the ticket” line) to which he interrupted me in the middle and said, “Sir, I know I was speeding and I’m really sorry. I’ve had a really sh!&*y day today. Is there anyway that you could please make this a warning?” I said, “sure thing” wrote warning across the ticket and told him to slow down and be safe.

I’m not saying this will be the outcome everytime you are polite to a police officer, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

162 HBG February 26, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Hi, I am from Australia. The majority of the times I have been stopped, I usually indicate to leave the road, leave the vehicle (ignition off, keys in hand), and have my license ready. I am always polite, and if I was genuinely speeding, I deserve the fine. I find this puts the officer at ease, that I am not going to challenge him/her. Respect goes a long way. Regardless of the outcome, I hope the rest of their shift is incident-free (ie no serious accidents etc). I check my lights regularly. All officers are human and doing their job. I received a ticket from an officer back @ 98. I later became friends with that officer, through another officer I knew. ;-)

163 Tom Dong February 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

I was once riding home, very late at night, after finishing a shift with a coworker at a restaurant. She got tired of waiting for a light that took much too long to change, and made a series of right turns and u-turns. I commented on the illegality of that maneuver, and like clockwork, we were pulled over. After the driver, my coworker, explained that we both had gotten off of work and were heading home, and that she was really sorry, we were let off with a warning.

Another story, I was riding with a friend and a stranger in Louisville. The stranger had smoked marijuana earlier and was pulled over because he had ALMOST hit somebody (it was raining, dark, and the man was wearing all dark colors). The stranger/driver admitted that he had smoked weed, gave what was left to the officer (who promptly destroyed it), and the officer escorted us to my hotel.

Conscientiousness goes a long way.

164 Thom G February 27, 2013 at 7:34 am

I’ve been pulled over twice. Once was … well … yeah … my fault, but in my defense I was kinda lost at the time, and ended up in a bus lane. The other was definitely my fault – I was going … a bit fast.
The second guy was pretty cool. I just kept my hands on the wheel, and when he asked me for my license etc, I told him I have a concealed carry permit and that my license was in the fanny pack with my weapon. He just said thanks for telling him, and we conducted our business on friendly terms.
The first incident the guy was a bit of a putz. I had been at a friend’s wedding, and was trying to find my way to the reception. It was a Civil War wedding so I was in full kit. My wallet was in my jeans pocket in the hatch, so I had to get out, after informing the officer of the situation. He went to the back of the car and looked in through the hatch, then stepped back, put his hand on his pistol and said you make F@$*!^g sure that’s all you get. I’d been part of the arch of steel for the wedding and my saber was lying on the rear deck. I mean, who did the guy think I was? Bruce Lee? Conan?
After I produced my ID, he was still kinda snotty with me. But, at least he didn’t cite me.
All in all though, most officers I’ve come across are pretty solid professionals and have a good professional attitude. If I have to interact with them I let them know I’m armed and have a CCP, that way there are no unpleasant surprises for anyone involved.

165 Thom G February 27, 2013 at 7:44 am

On the other hand… a reenactor friend of mine intentionally gave a PA State Trooper a bit of a heart attack.
The friend was driving a panel van going down the PA Turnpike towards Gettysburg, when he got pulled over for a broken tail light.
The officer gave him the usual speech, and then asked, “is there anything in this vehicle I should know about? Drugs, guns, large quantities of cash?”
My friend said; “well, yes, there are ten military grade rifles in the back, along with three military hand guns and about a thousand round of ammunition. ”
The cop was ready to call a SWAT team or something until the reenactor called attention to the way he was dressed — in a Union infantry private’s uniform. He was transporting his company’s gear to Gettysburg for the big reenactment.
Yeah, it was funny, but it was incredibly stupid to bait the officer like that.

166 Randy February 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Frankie comment #117, you are just the person I want to stop because you my friend are getting a full boat ticket and anything else I can find. People make mistakes and at times miss stop signs, push the speed limit. I write maybe 2 of every 5 stops but you my friend will go home with my name on a citation everytime, have a nice day and please drive careful….!

167 Raquel March 1, 2013 at 1:25 am

I have been pulled over (too) many times, but have gotten out of several tickets. I always look for somewhere to get off the road, am always very polite & respectful, and I fully answer every question. Maybe it’s just because I’m so adorable, or maybe just because it’s refreshing for someone to just talk to them and not be all freaked out when they get to the window, but cops seem to like to let me go with just a warning. :D

168 Will March 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Hey Calvin,
First off it sounds like you have an issue with authority. Secondly, if you live in a state which requires you to turn over your peice then that officer has a right to run the number. There is no probable cause required. I know of several cases in which officers performed a simple and legal searc frisk which resulted in stolen guns.

169 Kevin March 4, 2013 at 1:12 am

This is a great article.

I drive a lot for my job, roughly 3k-4k miles a month so I have had my share of road side meetings with the law.

I have found there are a few things that get you out of most tickets.

First, I have a Commercial Drivers license. I havent driven a truck in years, however I wont let this lapse because it helps in getting out of tickets.

If you have a CDL points count more toward your license then a normal. If you have been polite, an officer assumes you make a living driving trucks and if you have been polite, they dont want to hinder you livelihood for a stupid mistake.

Second, I have a carry permit. Like the article said, I have both hands on the wheel when the officer walks up but I have both license out, one in each hand. They usually ask what the other license is, and I tell them, then I tell them where the gun is and explain there is a bullet chambered.

Most of the time they dont even bother with the gun because of the attitude and courtesy shown. Sometimes they ask what type of gun I am have and that has led into a gun discussion. (which Im always eager to have even if Im late)

Be safe.

170 Wags March 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

@Tony: In the State of Florida, NOT signing your citation results in immediate arrest. I was a patrol deputy for two years, and still work in law enforcement.

We will often ask to search the vehicle if we have P.C. or not. If we don’t and you say “yes”, good for us, we have permission. If we ask, and you say “no” (and we have no P.C.), oh well, it was worth a try. If you say “no”, and we have reasonable suspicion, we will search the vehicle.

Easiest things to to are to not have anything illegal going on in your car. Many times, if the guys had a little weed in the car from the night before, and they told me “I have a little weed in here.”; I’d confiscate it, make sure they weren’t on probation, and send them on their way. Very few cops want to take someone to jail on a tiny baggie of weed. If that’s the worst thing in the car, and the driver isn’t high at the time of the stop, being honest and respectful goes a long way.

171 Victor March 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm

If the officer asks you – “please step out of the car” – do you have to comply? Is that the same thing as the illegal search scenario where you can just deny him the right?

172 Anderson March 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Mike, the hard-boiled “street cop” of 26 years fails to understand the problem with what Eric “beautifully said (being difficult because it’s your “right” is just stupid). If an officer asks me anything that I am not legally required to do I will not do it. If he asks me a question that I am not legally required to ask, I will not answer. I will not simper about while dealing with civil servants (the police). Such an attitude (which you deem beautiful because it makes interacting with the public easier on you) is weak and dangerous. There is no greater beauty than the firm non-compliance of that which is against our rights.

173 John March 5, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I got pulled over last year for doing 67 in a 55. The LEO asked what I was late too and I said “my wife’s ultrasound”. He said I was in enough trouble already and told me to slow down. My youngest is 8 years old! Works every time as long as you are pulled over during “business hours”.

174 American March 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

Couple pointers I can offer:

1) Invest in a GPS-enabled dash cam for both your front-facing windscreen and back-facing windscreen. If you follow the law, you always have evidence and NEVER have to worry about being wrongly accused of something. Even if GPS data is not admissible for some reason, two corroborating pieces of video with timers on them will back you up.
2) If you ARE speeding, or not obeying the traffic laws, then you DO deserve a ticket. Follow the traffic laws, fool!

Even if you have a momentary lapse in judgement, you’re still putting other people’s lives at risk during that lapse. Traffic laws are in place for a reason not just for your protection but for others’ as well. Quit making excuses for why you “think” you’re more important than other people, and try being MANLY and owning up to your mistakes. When you drive, you are in charge of a 2,000lb+ weapon. You can kill others with your casual mistake. Laws are there to prevent this sort of situation, not just to inconvenience you. Don’t forget this.

175 Sean April 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

One question I didn’t see covered in the comments or post – after being pulled over, who drives away first? Do you let the officer leave or do they expect you to leave first?

176 Peleg April 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I was stopped by the Indiana State Patrol in the morning for turning right on a “No turn on red” intersection. I was waiting for about 3 minutes while the red was going on, and there were not cars.

I did excercise what I learned in Police class and other places on how to handle traffic stops, got off with a written warning, her’es how:

1. Pulled over off the main road, away from on-coming traffic.

2. Rolled down all the windows.

3. Shut off the car, shut off the radio.

4. Hands on the wheel.

5. Let the Officer start the conversation, do NOT start it yourself. Let He/She say something first. In this case I was greeted with a Good Morning, which was nice, so I replied the same way.

6. If you plan on reaching somewhere to grab your license or what not, let the Officer know before you do so.

7. Don’t mouth off, don’t be a smartass, answer the questions with simple YES or NO. Remember you also have the right not to answer any questions at all.

177 KstlAutumn April 14, 2013 at 2:39 am

Tonight was the very first time I’ve ever been pulled over. I was driving home from work, which is two cities away, and got pulled over in each. The first time around the officer told me he pulled me over because it was late. The second time was legitimately because my blinker randomly quit working. No tickets, but man, hilarious.

178 Josh May 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

As an Officer as well, I can say, (without any bias either way. seriously. I don’t care what you do in your own city but, this is a real statement) most of the “advice” in the comments is terrible. There may be bits of logic in them but if you want advice talk to a lawyer after the encounter. Playing street lawyer with your new-found conjecture from some anonymous dude on a website will make your encounter exponentially worse.

Also, it’s never a good idea to be coy about having a firearm on your person. EVER. All it takes is one perception of your intentions (right or wrong) and it will get you shot. By all means, carry a gun as your right allows. But, understand that I’m willing to err on the side of my safety above an in-depth inquiry into your intentions when deciding to defend myself.

179 Sean July 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Last time I was pull over, I informed the officer I had a Weapon and Valid Conceal Permit. He said thanks for letting him know, asked what the weapon was, asked a question about the grip (I assume he was in the market for one, or had heard something and wanted to ask someone who owned one?), handed me back my info and told me to have a nice day.

It might not get you out of a ticket every time. Its worked 2 out of 3 times for me over the past 10 years, but letting the officer know you legally carry is greatly appreciated and might just get you off the hook.

180 Matt August 27, 2013 at 12:33 am

hey so I was driving through the monutains heading to the lake on a highway where me and a friend who was following me unknowingly drove into a area where the speed limit changed from 65mph to 55 mph, a highway patrol officer drove past us, turned around and pulled my friend over, since she did not know where we were going I turned around to wait for her and he gave me a speeding ticket as well, is he allowed to give me a citation when he didn’t pull me over? what can I do to fight this?

181 Susan September 13, 2013 at 9:12 am

Question: Have I learned anything reading all the above comments? Yes I think I have and that is “Just be yourself, don’t try to outsmart anyone, don’t be an Ass. If your always a rude person then your gonna be rude etc. So my experience with a traffic stop happened in a small town in Florida, just driving along in a bit of traffic and then surprise lights in my rear view, My thought process was to pull over (duh) and roll down my window (duh) and wait for officer to approach (duh) which she did (and I will say that in my mind when I saw a female officer I did think Oh s**t) After asking me for my license & Registration she ask “was I in a hurry to get somewhere” and my reply was No, (but at the same time thinking I probably was driving over the speed limit a bit, didn’t even realize) So I wasn’t trying to think of ways to get out of a ticket and never even cross my mind to be rude. In Florida when pulled over the officer goes back to their car and gets on a computer and runs your Info, she did and after returning to my window she says “Don’t be in such a hurry” and as she was walking away she says “Semper Fi” So I’m Completely thinking what??? Then remembering I have a USMC License plate…Actually remember thinking wow! cool! Made My Day!!!

182 Dave September 17, 2013 at 12:37 am

To those that talk about carrying a gun in Australia. You may be pulled over on the way to or from the gun range or hunting trip. Thus you do indeed carry a firearm, telling them is a very good idea. These days they run ur licence plate and know who you are before talking to you, and the first question they ask me is if I have my guns with me today.

183 Christina October 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Mike-from California- you are exactly the reason I am learning my rights, you sound like an egoistical person with the power going to your head. You are right, this is the USA, and we have rights here, fourth amendment right was written to protect us from people like you. You search my vehicle and break my window without a reasonable cause and you butt better get ready for a fight, with my lawyer.

184 Jae Iafrate October 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

Pleasant and extremely interesting article. Your point of look at is more or a lot less the same as main. Many thanks!

185 iamtheone November 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm

60mph on 30mph road, and not getting ticket even after pullover is Halloween Trick! Cop pulled me over and asked why I was in such a rush, i was just few blocks away from home…. honestly i said i don’t know sir, i was not in rush to reach my home, but i think its my gas paddle didn’t work properly when i crossing that bridge, i might pushed hard to gain some acceleration went beyond the speed limit, also my winter floor mat got struck for a while… oops
he asked any tickets you got before i said none in this state…
he checked all background and came and said you ticket outside this state they I said might be possible its long time ago… he refreshed my memory and said its july 4th ticket …
this time i will let you go but next if i see speeding i will impound your car!

I said, sure sir i will not repeat my mistakes… :)

186 Butch November 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm

We “should NOT get used to it” as another commenter suggests. People need to know their rights, and police need to limit stops to situations where there is good reason to stop someone. I recently got pulled over for going “too slow” in the left lane (54 he said, in a 60mph zone) even though as I made the sharp curve from I44 to I40 the first sign I saw said “through traffic keep left” – I was totally unsure what was ahead – a left exit maybe? The officer claimed this violated an OKC city ordinance which “required me to go the full speed limit in the left lane” (?!). He was polite but asked a LOT of questions – where are you going? are you married to the passenger? why aren’t you flying? etc etc. He was polite enough (and so was I) but I’m sorry now I answered any of his questions other than providing required ID and insurance card. He gave me a warning, and said since we were going all the way to California, we could probably be expected to be stopped “a few more times”. Guess what? In Texas three hours later, we were pulled over again for “turning on my left turn signal after my driver side tire touched the center line” – I was moving over as I approached the Texas cop’s squad car. Again, many more questions. By the way, this was the first time I’ve been stopped in 35 years of driving. I later learned about license plate scanners (the ACLU has begun to litigate the use of this very threatening technology, which records your license and location and goes into a massive data base that may be shared with the NSA). I assume after being stopped our rental car license was put into the OKC data base and shared with Texas. Frankly, I felt so paranoid after these incidents it clouded the next few days of the long awaited road trip. And I won’t be going back to Oklahoma or Texas if I can avoid it! I’m afraid too many of these stops are “war on drugs” pull overs with flimsy pretexts being used. That’s sad, because it creates hostility on the public toward the police, which is the last thing they should want. (In fact, after relating this story to family, I discovered quite a few of them had similar stories).

187 Marcus January 10, 2014 at 1:45 am

Thanksgiving night of 2013 I was on my way back from McDonalds with a friend in the passenger seat. We were hungry and went to get burgers, on the way back home someone pulled out in fro t of us and almost caused us to hit them so I had to swerve to pass them, they tried to pass me once it turned into a single lane no passing zone through an intersection, at this point I was not aware there was an officer behind me, the guy I almost hit turned off and I got into my neighborhood I noticed a car following me, then I noticed it was a cop. I pilled in my driveway and opened my garage door, the cop kept going. Well we were supposed to be at my friends house, not mine, my parents made it clear I wasn’t supposed to have friends over. So I leave my house and head for his, the cop was waiting on a side street and pulled me over for “impeeding the flow of traffic” there was no traffic and I was going 45 in a 55 so the officer would pass. He then threatens me with warnings that would add up to $500 if I tried to take it to court and said he thought I was drunk for swerving. He made me call my mom and wake her up so she could come get me and my sister had to come get my car and take it back home. I was past curfew so he gave me a $132 ticket for that and he also tapped my window so hard it came off the already loose tracks. So by the end of the night I had lost Mt cheeseburgers that became cold, $132, a driver side window, and now my license for 30 days. The officer was not understanding what so ever and permanently put a hate in my heart for every officer out there. Everyone tells stories of their luck with officers, I have none. Tell me where the justice is in that?

188 SWF January 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

My did who was a state trooper always told us we were not required to say anything to the police when stopped. And he reiterated it by saying “and I mean nothing at all”. He said most people talk themselves into trouble. Of course, I’ve never been able to not say anything……(sigh)

189 gregory January 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm

@ Mike response 140. I’m also a law enforcement officer in New York State in Schenectady County and I find your remarks inflamatory. You are going to break a person’s window because they locked their car to be protected from a possible illegal search. You are the type of officer we all hate to work with because you cause unnecessary problems bec ause “You can”. The writer did not say they lock their door to avoid a legal search but rather to avoid the possible tempation by the officer to conduct an illegal unwarranted search. I have found in the seventeen years working for the sheriff’s office that it is cowboys such as yourself who put other officers in danger. I also will say that you are probably the first person that wants a union represenative or attorney when ever you are being questioned by professional standards for civilian compliants which I’m sure with your attitude you have had many. It’s your right to do that and I’m sure you exercise that right too just like many of our citizens have the right to exercise their rights as well. Thats not hiding behind the constitution but enforcing it like both of us are sworn to do. I have made hundreds if not thousands of arrests but I do not infringe on rights of the people I have been sworn to protect. If I have a legal right to look or search your vehicle and the suspect will not give access to the vehicle do I break the window on the car? The answer is no with the exception being if people’s lives are in danger otherwise our department will have the car towed and impounded and a request for a search warrant. We like to build cases against perpetrators not have them dismissed because some hot headed officer felt like he was disrepected because he didn’t get 100% compliance from a potential suspect. I don’t really care if you don’t like what I have to say but I have dealt with fellow officers of your caliber and all they seem to be is short sighted and compromise the current case and future ones. Respect is a two way street the people I deal with live in the same community I do. Community members feel comfortable coming to me with private information or to turn their own children in for commiting crimes because they know that they will be treated fairly and with respect. Prior to coming back on the street as a patrol supervisor I had the highest closure rate in my department for person on person crimes (for those who do not know: assualt, rape, robbery, murder, etc.). Maybe after 26 years your view of dealing with the public is jaded but it seems like it is time for you to retire or at the very least get off the streets.

190 StreetCop January 27, 2014 at 1:11 am

First, let me say it has been awesome reading everyone’s “this one time…” storiey. It’s easy to tell those who had something to hide and those that didn’t. The article itself is well written and spot on, if it’s a minor traffic violation then it should go smoothly and most of the time results in a quick warning. Personally I issue warnings about 85% of the time as it’s more about awareness than punishment. If I issue a ticket it’s usually the result of a collision or some directed enforcement as a result of citizen complaints.

Secondly, as for myself and most of the LEO’s I work with we are very conscientious about playing by the rules and respecting peoples rights. I understand there are are incompetent/dirty/egotistical cops out there, but they are seriously the minority (and unfortunately the ones everyone remembers.)

Third, I’ll provide some insight. Part of my job is criminal interdiction (warrants, drugs, guns) and there’s no more satisfying feeling than respecting the constitutional rights of the bad guy and still pulling the brick of cocaine out of the hidden compartment in his rental car. Unfortunately these rights also allow many, many bad guys to continue breaking the law. As for the experience “Butch” described in comment #186, it sounds like those stops were “interdiction” style. I’m assuming it was a rental car and the route he described is most likely used by illicit drug/money couriers as well as legitimate travelers. The questions asked were standard and refusing to answer them would only prolong the encounter, usually drug couriers can’t answer them as I’m sure “Butch” did; with an honest and plausible story. While I can empathize that they may have been inconvenient and uncomfortable, these kinds of interactions have been made necessary by the criminal element that attempt to blend in with society.

Finally. As for all those giving random advice on what to do, be very careful. How you conduct yourself during an encounter with LE is your own business, don’t pass on misguided advice to someone else. Specific laws vary from state to state but the best source for traffic case law comes from the US Supreme Court. All traffic case law and procedure is based of the precedents set by the SC. “caselaw4cops.net” is a great resource, one I refer to regularly, if you want to know what your rights are and what limitations we are bound by as LE. Don’t just think that because you don’t feel in the wrong you can refuse to cooperate. I’ve had several stops where the occupant stated they didn’t have to do anything I asked them to. They went to jail. I went to Internal Affairs. I was exonerated. They were convicted.

P.S. We don’t even have a place to someone to sign their ticket, that whole concept isn’t even an issue where I work.

191 Sarah March 4, 2014 at 12:42 am

A person can and should be able to exercise his or her constitutional rights respectfully and politely without fear that a cop may retaliate. Some (not all) of the comments posted by cops on here seem to imply that a cop would retaliate in such instances. What a blatant abuse of authority.

192 Rob April 14, 2014 at 11:41 am

Some of these comments are great, but some are simply wrong.
When you get pulled over, turn off the main road if possible within a short distance. An officer will feel much safer if you pull over into a lit parking lot rather than on the side of a busy highway or even a side road.
Roll your window all the way down, turn on the interior light (if at night), turn off your car and place your key on the dashboard in front of you. Keep your hands on the steering wheel.

When the officer asks you for your license and registration, tell the officer where they are located and ask for permission to reach for them. Do so slowly and carefully to ease the officer’s nerves/suspicions.

If asked why you were pulled over, simply state respectfully that you do not know. The officer may ask questions about where you are going, who you are visiting, etc. You may or may not choose to answer these questions, however if you do choose to answer them make sure you answer honestly. I’ve found in most scenarios it actually works to your advantage to answer the officer’s questions, especially if they are on the lookout for drug runners, escapees, etc. It makes their job easier. It is your right to not answer anything, but if you make the officer’s job easier (without allowing him to violate your rights), then you will almost certainly come out ahead.

The officer may legally order you out of your car. Officers can do this at any traffic stop and does not indicate that they have “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” to search you or your vehicle. Do so slowly and calmly, but do not lolligag.

If an officer asks to search your car, it means he/she does not have legal authority to search your vehicle. If they do have legal authority to search, they will announce that they are going to search the vehicle. If an officer asks to search and you refuse the search, but the officer searches anyway, do not physically retaliate, simply state firmly that you do not consent to a search. This may or may not stop the search, but if anything incriminating is found, it will be dismissed in court if you were illegally searched.

Sometimes the officer will let you go with a warning. Other times you will receive a citation. Calmly take the citation, sign it, and say thank you. At this point the officer will likely give you back your license and registration.

Once you receive a citation, you are legally allowed to leave. Do not wait around for the officer to leave or to terminate the encounter. The law says that if you are cited and then choose to stick around, you do so of your own free will.

If you have not yet been issued a citation and the officer continues asking questions, politely ask if you are being detained or if you are free to go. If you are not being detained then you are free to terminate the encounter at any time. More likely, the officer will say that he/she just wants to talk to you. Again, firmly but politely ask if you are being detained or are you free to go. Most often, this will result in the officer asking you to wait while he/she returns to his/her patrol car to write out a citation. Again, once you receive the citation, you are free to leave.

Above all, just make sure you remain courteous and respectful. Never make any quick, sudden movements or cop an attitude (pun intended) with an officer.

I busted a red light one night at 4 AM simply because I wasn’t paying attention and at the next red light I stopped and noticed a police officer behind me. As soon as the light turned green, he turned on his lights. I immediately pulled over into a well-lit gas station, shut off the car, and rolled the window down. He asked for my license and registration, which I provided, and then I asked if I know why he pulled me over. I politely stated that I did not know. He told me I ran a red light. I apologized and stated that I didn’t realize it was red, that I must have not been paying attention. He said “Well it’s a $238 ticket for busting a red light. Just pay more attention. Have a great night.” and left. I was in shock. But he could have easily cited me and written that ticket, but I honestly believe because of my politeness and willingness to cooperate that he let me go with a warning.

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