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


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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 }

1 Joseph February 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I remember many, many years ago when I was young and rode a bike. A pretty fast bike.
It was night, out in the country where I lived and I was steaming down a lonely small but straight road. Must have been at around 100 mph. Saw blue lights way up ahead.

“Oh man”, I though, I am totally dead meat. It took all I could do to stop in time! I was downshifting and the bike was redlining!
Finally got it down into first, and…screetching…came to rest at the feet of an officer.
Awkward silence.
Licence and reg.
“Well OK Joseph…we had a break in around here and are just checking all vehicles.”
Have a good night.

2 Cobby February 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

If you are not carrying a gun or have one in the vehicle, do you offer the officer your concealed firearm permit? When I pull my drivers license out of my wallet, he’s probably going to see it anyway.

3 Trifith February 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Record the stop. Video is best, Audio is good. You will then have a record of what happened for use in court. You will also have a record in the event you’re dealing with a rouge cop who will either lie in court, or just engage in a bit of street justice. It happens. Inform the officer you are recording. If he objects, cite Glik V. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a federal case that guarantees a citizens right to record.

Note: If you are pulled over in IL, the cops can, and often do, charge you with illegal wiretapping. This practice is currently in litigation. Record at your own risk.

You should also consider installing a Freedom Cam from Freedomcam.net, which is a full dash cam setup with GPS that can be used to dispute any moving violation charges. (I am not affiliated in any way with freedomcam.net)

4 Chris February 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Once I got pulled over in Colorado, upon approaching my vehicle, the officer asked “do you know why I am pulling you over?” I replied “surely you’re selling me a ticket to the Colorado State Trooper’s ball” The officer then stated loudly “Colorado state Troopers don’t have balls.”
We both stared at each other for a moment while I tried to suppress a laugh, he smiled, tipped his hat and walked away. Absolutely worth it.

5 Kris February 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

When I was about 19, I was on my way to work and was already twenty minutes late when I came over the hill only to see a cop clocking on the side of the road. He pointed at me then to the front of his car. I knew what this meant, busted.

I waved to him and pulled over. This is what happened: O (Officer) M (Me)

O: Morning. I clocked you doing 77 back there. What’s your hurry?
M: Yeah, I’m sorry about that officer, I’m just really late to work.
O: What time were you supposed to be there?
O: Oh! Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll write you up for 70 so it’s no points on your license and we’ll get you on your way.
M: Oh wow, thanks man!

He was literally back within a minute to have me sign the ticket, fastest stop ever.

O: I know how it can be when you’re in a rush, just try to plan a little better, yeah?
M: I will, thank you!

Even though I got ticketed, it was still way better than it could have been and was an overall pleasant experience.

6 David February 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Got stopped on the Interstate in TN once. Waited for the officer just as you advise. When I checked the mirror, he was standing behind my vehicle, wildly motioning for me to get out and come back to him, hand on his gun. Maybe that’s the way they do things.

7 Peter Gilmore February 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm

The wrong way to handle a police traffic stop:

And the right way:

There are may great cops out there. Be a good citizen and know your rights. This is why we have a Constitution. God Bless America.

8 katie February 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I have a friend who intentionally keeps his driver’s license behind his Eagle Scout card in his wallet. He’s gotten pulled over a couple of times for speeding, but when the officers see the scout card as he’s retrieving his license, they always let him off with a verbal warning. =)

9 Sean February 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I normally get out of a ticket by saying my drivers license is right here behind my badge. Works every time. I’m retired now but it still works.

When I used to pull people over I would ask, “sir, do you know why I pulled you over”? I heard “Yea, because I’m black, mother f****r”! so many times I started to think that was the normal response to the question. Next time I get pulled over I might just say that to see what the officer does.

10 Blair February 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I’ve disputed this particular point on a similar post made on another blog (actually, a concealed carry blog): If you are carrying a gun in a state with no duty to inform laws, your better bet is to NOT inform the officer. It is far better to let the stop go without any mention of carrying whatsoever. Keep your registration and wallet far from any firearms you may have, and remain civil (in other words, follow the remainder of this article as gospel).

I understand that this flies in the face of so-called “professional courtesy,” but while you may deem it due the officer, s/he is under no obligation whatsoever to give any sort of courtesy to you and may use the opportunity to unreasonably (my opinion) search your firearm for evidence of it being stolen. Mind, if you are asked to step out of the vehicle or, perhaps, about to be frisked, a calm notice of your being lawfully armed would be advisable. In your more routine traffic stop, the matter of your being armed is immaterial to the reason you are being pulled over.

I will say, though, that having an idea of what you will do under the circumstances of being pulled over is a great idea. It can happen for some of the stupidest of reasons. (Taillights, anyone?)

11 Sam February 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm

“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.”

Obviously spoken as someone who’s never gotten pulled over for Driving While Black.

12 Daniel February 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Some other good tips:

If you’re the PASSENGER, put your hands where the officer can see them. The dashboard is a good place, or if you’re short or in the back seat, then palms up in your lap is also good. It puts us at ease that you’re not hiding anything or trying something. After all, we’re trying to work with one person, every additional one just jacks up the stress.

Put out your cigarette. I’m a former smoker, and I love the smell of tobacco. It’s not because of second hand smoke. It’s because of the distraction, and the risk that I could get burned if the stop goes bad. Also, someone dragging hard on a cig indicates nervousness, and makes me paranoid as to what they’re nervous about. Plus you might drop it while fumbling with your crap and then dive for the floorboards to catch it…..bad juju.

I know it’s hard, but don’t stare in the mirrors like you’re looking for me. I know you’re there, you know I’m there, I’ll be with you a soon as I can because I really hate spending more than a couple minutes on a stop if I don’t have to. People that stare in their mirrors at me make me wonder what they’re up to, or if they’re planning to ambush me when I get up to the car. They also encourage me to shine my flashlight in their mirror to regain the tactical advantage.

If you’re carrying, make sure that it is the first thing you say during the encounter. Don’t say “I have a gun”, while I’m asking you to get your license. As soon as I get to you, go ahead and say something like this in a very calm tone “Just so you know I’m a (CCW/off duty cop/open carryer) and I’m carrying”. It lets me know from the outset that there is a second gun (ie not mine) present, and I’ll be able to smoothly go through that before moving on to my original reason for the stop. I have followed this protocol the time that I was stopped off duty, and it instantly put the trooper in his comfort zone because he wasn’t looking for a ‘potential weapon’….he knew one was there, and then asked me where it was…..and DO NOT REACH FOR IT WHEN YOU ARE ASKED WHERE IT IS! TELL THEM WHERE FIRST! REACH FOR IT ONLY IF ASKED….OTHERWISE KEEP YOUR HANDS FAR AWAY!

Finally, hands on the steering wheel is pretty standard, and fine, and I’m not talking it down. Personally though, I prefer wrists on the windowsill if you don’t have a physical reason why you can’t. 1) It shows me your hands are not only visible, but empty. 2) Your hands are where I can see them at a distance. 3) If you make a furtive movement, you’ve got farther to go (ie went for the keys, a gun under the seat/between the seats/in the console/in the glovebox/etc. 4) I can physically grab your arm and stop you if you make a furtive movement. Wrists on the windowsill, and I’ll tell you where I want them after you move….and face forward, not leaning out your car window at me (see looking in mirrors above).

13 Brewineer February 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I got pulled over for the fist time in my life (13 years driving) this last summer heading home after a trip to the family cabin.

The Trooper pulled one of those tailgating-you-so-you-can’t-slow-down-after-passing tricks and I was pretty anxious.

When he told me that he paced me at 10 over the limit, I just said
“OK, That’s fair.”
After a little chitchat, checking my docs, and a brief wait, he told me that I was the first person he pulled over to ever straight up admit to speeding and just told me to take it easy heading back.
“Does that sound fair?”
“Yes, thanks officer!”
My cat and I then drove leisurely back home without incident.
(Yes I took my cat with me to the cabin)

14 Daniel February 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm


I can only speak personally on this matter, other officers of the law are obviously different. Note this doesn’t apply to weapons in the toolbox/trunk/ closed case in the back seat….it applies to weapons within ‘lunging distance’ of you or a passenger.

If you start off an encounter with me by calmly informing me that you have a weapon, and then telling me where it is (when I ask), I will likely ask to see it if it’s a stop for something bigger than a verbal warning. If all I was going to do was tell you ‘watch the speed limit’ or ‘careful about that yield sign’, then I may just tell you “well, don’t reach there…mind if I see your license”….which I’ll run, verbally warn you, and let you go on your way. If I do take it from you, I’m a gun guy, so all I’m going to do typically is check the serial number (to make sure it isn’t stolen), lock the slide to the rear, and set it on your back seat along with the mag (or give it back to you if there aren’t other options). I know the horror stories of cops stripping guns down, or dumping all your ammo, etc. Personally I wouldn’t like it done to me, so I don’t do it to you. I just make sure that it can’t be fired in a single movement, but you’re not stuck on the side of the road cursing my name while you put it back together or reload it in the dark.

15 Jacob February 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I’ve been pulled over many times. Usually for speeding, headlight or inspection sticker. The only bad incident with an officer was just outside NYC where an officer entered a turnabout and nearly hit me. After pulling me over, the officer was very rude and proceeded to lecture me on the rules of a turnabout. After a few minutes of this, I was annoyed and curtly asked if he wanted to see my license and reg or not. He looked them over, handed them back, and said move along. I still regret being short with the officer because I have a huge amount of respect for these men but in the moment, his attitude really got to me. Too bad I hadn’t read the “Trust Your Gut” article before that. Maybe there was something bigger bothering me… maybe the NY traffic.

16 P February 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm

If it is the end of the month the officer is filling his quota then it doesn’t really matter what you do or say because he’s got a quota to fill.

Be very low key so that he doesn’t specifically remember any of the details of your stop. This will mean he has to stick to a script if you decide to fight the ticket in court.

17 Joey E February 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Unfortunately, I’ve been too familiar with this the past couple of years. I’ve been polite, and apologetic. Got out of about 1/2 of them (especially when they find out I work with at-risk kids).

After my first ticket, my son thought I was going to jail. He’s a big rule keeper.

18 Manly Reviews February 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Its always a good idea to keep to yourself when you get pulled over. Your miranda rights say that “anything you say CAN and WILL be used AGAINST YOU in a court of law.” – So there is really nothing you can say to the police officer to make things better.

a good rule of thumb is to be as quiet as possible, smile a lot, and never answer any question with an incriminating answer. Answer, but don’t elaborate. Yes for yes, no for no, and say nothing else.

This was a really good article! I’m glad you posted it because a lot of people don’t know or understand their rights and end up in more trouble than they should have.

19 The Private Man February 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Getting pulled over on a motorcycle? There’s a variation to this: When you’re pulled over, get off the motorcycle and take off your helmet. Also, take the keys out of the ignition. Why? if you’re on a sport bike and young, the cop thinks you might try to run. Seriously. Also, stand next to your bike on the opposite side of the moving traffic. That’s safety for both you and the officer. If you’re wearing the right gear and have a valid motorcycle endorsement (too many guys don’t do this and then you’re likely fucked), the officer might be a bit more lenient with you. Older, cruiser-riding guys stand a better chance of such leniency. Sportbike-riding youngsters have a higher chance of getting the maximum penalty.

20 Mark Petersen February 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm


Why on earth did you go through the back ground check, paperwork, and expense if you aren’t carrying your gun???

21 Someone from Mexico February 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm

In Mexico things are very different, you just give the officer a 200 Pesos (17 USD) bill and that’s it… regardless of fault you have committed. It is sad, but true, and that is the principal cause of the insecurity in Mexico, if police officers let you go for 200 Pesos, imagine what they do for the thousands gang members give to them for other things.

Look at this video and beware when coming to Mexico.


22 Déo February 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm

So… Who would end up winning? Teddy or Sasquatch?

23 Jonathan February 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm

If you’re asked to get out of the vehicle, don’t say: “I’d like to officer, but I’m buckled in!”

24 Emily February 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I was pulled over once, on the way home from the doctor’s with my 2 kids (I was pregnant and scatterbrained and didn’t notice that the school zone came up… meaning the 30mph was now 20mph. I was going 31 or so. I honestly wondered if one of my lights were out…) The police officer looked in the back of the van, seeing the kids very well secured, he had to write me up. He told me he’d make it easy on me though, I didn’t know what that meant, simply because my kids were properly secured.

When I got to court, I found out. He didn’t list the road as a schoolzone and put my speed as 26. Had he put the truth, all my fines and points would have automatically been DOUBLED, and the fine would have been horrendous. This saved me a lot of points (plea bargained to no points on my license), insurance (they didn’t care about no points…) and money (a bit over $100 if I remember right instead of closer to $1000. They don’t plea bargain for school zone violations where I live.)

Besides keeping your kids safe, having them in car seats appropriate for their age and size (that’s rear-facing until 2 at least, car seat forward until 4-6, booster until 8+) really seems to impress an officer that you’re not usually careless, and they are more likely to be nicer.

Oh, it also helps to find out that your city is known as one of the top 10 “cops make their money by stopping speeder” cities out there. At least it helps you to feel a bit better.

25 Mike N February 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Last time I got pulled over (Pickens County, GA), I lowered all four windows, set my wallet on the dash, and kept both hands visible on the wheel. When I was asked for my ID, I handed over my CCW permit along with my license. He looked at it and asked me if I had my weapon with me. Without removing my hands from the wheel, I told him yes and where it was. He simply said “okay” and told me why he pulled me over (tag lights). Once my ID came back clear, he just told me to get the lights fixed and let me go. No ticket, no search, no request to hold my handgun during the stop.

26 Daniel February 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

My criminology professor told us the best way to avoid a ticket (besides obeying the law) was to act like you’ve never been pulled over.

He suggested that when the officer asks for your license to hand him your wallet. To which the officer will reply, “no, I just need your license.”

I tried it. It happened almost exactly as the prof said. And it worked. I was caught speeding, and left with a warning.

27 S February 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Back in college, my friend would go around instructing people to use the hand brake to slow down when you see a cop. The reason was that the hand brake brakes on all four wheels and keeps the car from leaning forward as you slow down: that would be like admitting you’re speeding! That was one of my friend’s tricks to get out of a speeding ticket.

His sister had obviously heard the trick. One night, she was moving along the highway a little too fast. When she saw the cop car, she pulled on the hand brake. Was it because she pulled too hard? Was it because the pavement was wet under the California rain? Both? Anyway, she totalled her car and made a high speed ambulance trip to the hospital!

That, my friends, proves one point: my friend was right, she didn’t get a ticket that night!

28 Ed February 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Great article. I wish i would have this my first time I was pulled over,

Also, if you wonder why you don’t argue with the cop and don’t sign your ticket . Remember, you could get tased.

29 Xenocles February 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Another good reason to refuse a search is that the officer will not be held liable for any damage he causes to your property during the course of the search – intentional or otherwise. If he drops your briefcase and breaks your computer, for example, it’s your problem.

30 Jon February 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

If you have the ability. Always record the incident. With video if possible. It doesn’t matter what the state/municipality’s laws are. If a police officer pulls you over in a public place then you can record. A peace officer in a public place in the performance of his duties has NO right to tell you to turn off any recording device.

31 TroopThrowback February 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm

As an officer in the California Highway Patrol,
I concur with your tips. Generally the Officer will guide you where he/she wants you to pull over via the PA system. Listen to instructions! Never consent to a search, either. Know your rights, and exercise them. Also, under no circumstances should you pull to the left unless instructed to do so.

32 neal February 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm

The first and only time I was pulled over was when I was 22 and going about 74 in a 65 zone, on a mountain highway.

I had no idea what to do. I kind of slowed down, but wasn’t sure where to pull over. About a half-mile away I knew there was a place to pull off the road, so I sort of gestured that I was looking for a place to pull over. I got closely tailed until I did so.

When the officer came to talk to me, he told me that he thought I was going to try to run, since I didn’t pull over immediately. My strange gesturing apparently didn’t make things clear. He told me that when a cop puts on their lights, your expected to pull over immediately, and that the officer believes it is safe to do so.

I’d probably still try to find a safe place to turn off, though I wouldn’t take so long, and next time I’ll remember to put on my flashers, like you suggest.

33 Paul February 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Ok, 8 times in 3 years since I bought my Mustang. One hour in my car, driving home from dealer, pulled over for speeding. First kind of disagreed (not arguing) then told him my new speedometer had numbers every 20, and my old car was every 10, he laughed at that. Then it went like this -
“let me see your registration”
“I don’t have any”
“Why not”
“I just got this car”
“How long have you had it”
“What time is it?”

Ok, he was laughing and asked to see the engine.

Then, year later, got pulled over and I was caught red-handed,
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“I was speeding.”
“That’s right, how fast were you going?”
“I was going 85 (70 limit)”
“That’s exactly right, you know you are the first honest person I’ve met all day, you wouldn’t believe some of the stories I’ve heard, I’ll let you off with a warning.”

Finally,, I was advised in training to hand over my license and include my weapons permit at the same time. Neve an issue, I also keep my registration and insurance on my visor, no having to open anything. but weapon in console, and all other papers in glove box.

34 Brent February 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I recently got pulled over for going 48 in a 35. I was daydreaming about something and the exact situation happened as stated in the article. When the officer asked if he knew why he pulled me over, I replied, “well either my taillight is out or I was speeding.” He asked why I was speeding I simply said, Well I was listening to Roe Conn and daydreaming. I got out of the speeding ticket but got one for registration being out. I was driving my wife’s car.

35 Nathan Z February 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Got pulled over once for doing 25 in a 15 zone. Had a cooler of soda in the back seat headed to my grandmothers 90th birthday. The officer asked if I had a decapitated head in the cooler. Pretty funny way to gauge if I was on a early afternoon joy ride. He didn’t take me up on my (admittedly unnecessary) offer for him to take a look.

Got a verbal warning for my “infraction”.

36 Jim February 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

My sister once got pulled over while traveling on an interstate from MN to IA. It was a routine stop (she wasn’t breaking any traffic laws) but officer asked her where she was going. We both wondered if he had any right to ask that question, should she have answered, and what might be the consequence of not answering. Any thoughts?

37 Fred February 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I have been pulled over one time since I got my CHL here in TX (tail light was out). The exact wording I used was, “Good Morning Deputy, I am legally obliged to tell you that I am a concealed handgun licensee and that I am currently carrying my firearm.” I handed him my DL and CHL, he asked me where I was carrying it and that I keep my hands on the wheel. He ran my license, brought it back and thanked me for my time and I thanked him for his service to the community. It should be noted that in TX if you are not carrying you are under no obligation to mention your CHL either, but it’ll come up when they run you in the computer.

38 James February 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm

1-window down and hands outside of the windows “I have a fire arm”.
Wait for instructions
2-”I have nothing to say”
3-retreive license, registration and insurance when told to do so.
4-”I have nothing to say”
5-”I do not consent to unwarranted searches of my vehicle.
My brother, 2 brother-in laws and 3 friends are LEO’s and that is what they say to do.

39 David February 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I disagree about not mentioning your CCW to the officer. I have been pulled many times since I’ve gotten my CHL and I always hand it to the officer with my DL whether I am carrying or not. I have not gotten a single moving violation since.
The CHL tells the officer quite a few things about you. At least in TX, it means that you’ve never had any serious crimes, never any domestic charges, not behind on taxes or child support, never had a DWI, are respectful of the rule of law.
Basically your CHL is your “Upstanding Citizen” badge.
I also always pull into a parking lot or far off the road when ever stopped, roll down the drivers window, turn of my vehicle, turn on the dome light if it’s dark, put my left arm out the window and my right hand on the top of the wheel.
Common sense, respect, and a CHL go a long way toward getting you just a warning.

40 Rob February 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I find honesty is the best policy. My Father-in-Law is a retired LEO, and he reiterates the same thing. If you know you were a bit over the speed limit, just be honest. About 6 months ago, I was coming home from work and was probably about 10 miles over the limit on a local road. The officer pulled me over, and as I rolled down my window I smiled at him and said, “Well, I guess I won an idiot award for today.” He kinda laughed and said to me, “Then I guess you know you need to slow down the next time your coming through here.” After a few more minutes of back and forth, he gave me a warning and let me on his way, and I thanked him for his understanding. Police officers are normal working guys like you and me- treat them like normal guys, and they’ll treat you the same way.

41 motocycle rider February 16, 2013 at 12:14 am

@The Private Man.

I haven’t been pulled over on my bike. I mostly just cruise around its a laid back kinda riding I do. The question I have is the gloves I have chosen to wear, and heavy leather with very visible metal studs and plates. Pretty much how they look: http://www.dhgate.com/icon-motorcycle-titanium-full-leather-gloves/p-ff8080812f2de356012f3961ff6e2b79.html Would it be a good idea to take them off with my helmet? I just see them working well in feisty cuffs.

42 bfl February 16, 2013 at 12:39 am

Always specify whether you are carrying or not if you are licensed to do so. If you are licensed to carry it will probably show up when the cops run your license/plates anyway. Can’t hurt to tell them that you are have a concealed carry permit but are not currently carrying. Keeps them from wondering later if you’re not being forthright about something.

43 Kyle :] February 16, 2013 at 1:18 am

In the event an unmarked vehicle tries to pull you over, its best to be safe and call “112″ to confirm it’s a real officer. I highly recommend this for ladies traveling at night. Call the number and inform them that you will pull over in a well light area, like a gas station. I’ve noticed an influx of persons impersonating police officer recently, and no one wants to be taken advantage of.

44 Emmanuel M'M February 16, 2013 at 1:27 am

The situation in Kenya is very different, the cops are mostly out for bribes, whether you are in the right or wrong.

I was pulled over two weeks ago and I admitted guilt (rookie mistake) so when he told me it was the station or something for him, I respectfully declined and asked him to go easy on me.

My supposed naivety, humility and grovelling got me off. The nasty cops react much better to you massaging their ego

45 Scott M February 16, 2013 at 1:46 am

If you have a concealed carry permit the cop will know as soon as your DL info is run for warrants. My state has no duty to inform about CCW, but I always mention it as soon as the officer stops talking at initial contact. So far I’ve not received any ticket for which I was deserving. Every time I’ve had contact we’ve talked more about my gun than the headlight or other minor thing for which I’ve been stopped.

I’ve driven all over the country, including the most aggressive enforcement states and as long as I keep my speed within 5 mph of the speed limit I drive with no fear. This works in a personal car and commercial semi-truck.

It’s your duty to see every speed limit sign you pass while driving. keeping your speed under control is the most certain way to stay out of trouble. If you know the speed limit at every moment, never go fast enough over the limit to get trouble, you never need to brake just because you see a cop. Most people are completely unaware of the speed limit until the see a cop. They hit the brakes even if they are well under the limit, and that makes them seem suspicious. Take pride in your driving discipline, it’s cheaper than a ticket and increased insurance. You aren’t going to speed enough to save a significant amount of time anyway. I say that last part as a driver that was paid to get to L.A.from TN ASAP in a 65mph vehicle. If you have the habit of driving fast to make up lost time, you won’t make up the time but you will risk tickets. Fast drivers develop the mentality that they can stop frequently or leave later and make up for it with speed. Getting a ticket will really make you late or later. The same fast vehicles used to pass me several times each day on the drive out to LA. Seldom did I not get stopped at the common pre-L.A. parking area at or before the fast vehicles that kept passing me. Leave on time.

46 Anonymamous February 16, 2013 at 2:46 am

The only two things I say at the traffic stop are “Respectfully, sir, I don’t speak to the police without representation” and when the officer finishes explaining the citation and asks if you have any questions, “Am I free to leave?”

47 James W February 16, 2013 at 3:01 am

I’m a cop in a small southern town, and appreciate all the advice given in this article. Traffic stops can be real shady, and when the driver cooperates, I usually let them go with a warning-unless its an insurance violation. I’ve got to have it, and so do you.

48 Daniel February 16, 2013 at 3:01 am

The best advice I have ever received about being pulled over is to get out of the car and wait next to it. Doing that makes you far less likely to get a ticket because the barrier of the car door can make the exchange less personable.

49 Ken February 16, 2013 at 3:11 am

I got pulled over on a bike for speeding a while back. The officer asked for my licence, registration, and insurance and I informed him that it was in my front bag. I got off my bike and stumbled on the uneven pavement and he stood me on a line and did a dui test on me (anybody who drives drunk on a motorcycle is a nutcase and a half in my opinion). The whole thing scared me to death, but he quickly realized I was sober. I got my ticket and was on my way after offering him a handshake and well wishes

50 Jan February 16, 2013 at 3:39 am

For everybody who likes to know what happens if you take the ticket you got to the court just read Rob’s article on cockeyed.com: http://cockeyed.com/lessons/court/traffic_court.html

51 Sarah Rolph February 16, 2013 at 5:27 am

The most peculiar stop I’ve ever encountered was when I was lost in the middle of nowhere and made a u-turn. All of a sudden there’s a police car behind me and he pulled me over. Asked if I knew why and I said no. He said “well, you made a u-turn!” Um, so what? I wasn’t quite sure how to put it, but, it’s not illegal to make a u-turn unless there’s a no-u-turn sign, right? So I tried to say that politely and the officer was stumped! He seemed to have made a mistake in pulling me over but he didn’t know what to do about it! I told him we were looking for a place to get a bite to eat and he seemed relieved to have a distraction and directed us to a Burger King. I said thanks and he just went back to his car. So odd.

52 Dannytheman February 16, 2013 at 5:59 am

I am one of the folks who say nothing, I roll my window down about 1/3rd of the way. I have my legal papers ready, DL, Owners Card and Insurance. I have NRA rear window stickers on my truck, so the officer usually asks me about any gun. I do not turn on the interior light, why give him full access view of YOUR cab? Be polite, take the ticket, sign it and GO TO COURT.
I also recommend you audio record the public servant doing his duty.
I say all this and say the easiest way is to not be pulled over. I also say YOU doing something stupid needs to handled different from the Speed Trap scenario.

53 Potsie February 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

The first thing you need to remember when being pulled over are your rights.

Here are some more tips: http://www.flexyourrights.org/faqs/category/traffic-stop/

54 BillyPenn February 16, 2013 at 6:37 am

I am retired law enforcement, 27yrs.
@ Jim, There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. You didn’t mention any of the following; Day or night, heavy or light traffic. Apparently your sister was driving alone. If at night, light traffic and traveling alone, ho could have stopped her to make sure she was not under some type of duress and it was safe for her to continue driving, Since you were not in the vehicle with her, you don’t know how she was driving. Perhaps not breaking any laws, but there must have been something to attract the attention of the officer. Asking where she was going was a nebulous question at best, since she could have given any destination which was in the direction that she was driving. I have no answer as to why he asked that.

For those who drive a vehicle with dark tinted windows and contains a passenger or two, trust me, the officer’s attitude will be different then with an operator only, easy to see inside the vehicle type of stop.

55 Emily February 16, 2013 at 6:50 am

I never pull the ‘pretend I don’t know why I’m being pulled over’ card. I’ve found that in NM anyway, the cops seem to appreciate honesty. So I’ll tell them; I got really into this guitar solo and must have sped up, or I bled through and am sitting in a puddle of my own menses and really want to get home and shower, or whatever it happens to be at that time. I’m thankful for my hometown cops. Back in mid-90s I was 17 and driving home to NM from Louisiana where my family live, and I was in the middle of nowhere TX and got pulled over by county. I was driving a 73 VW bug. The cop came up to my window, told me to get out of the car, walked me back to his car where another cop was in the passenger seat, made me stand by his door in the wind- it was freezing and windy and I couldn’t see for all the sand in my eyes. After several minutes the other cop came back to the car and told me to leave. I walked back to my vehicle and he had emptied all my luggage from my trip, stuff was all over the floor of my car and was falling out onto the side of the road. The cops weren’t leaving, they were just sitting in their car watching me, so I just shoved everything as out of the way as I could and left even though I wanted to sit there and freak out for a good half hour or so. They followed me on the road for at least another fifty miles. When I finally got back home and brought everything in I realized they had stolen all my undies. I was pretty horrified. I still don’t like driving through TX. I’m in my 30s now and that experience still scares me. The way they were aggresively posturing and not saying anything and not asking for my ID… I wasn’t sure if I’d be some unidentified body they’d find in the woods a month later.

56 Bill Wilson February 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

The tips in the article are all excellent. The only thing I would add is that it can be good when the officer asks for documents you tell him where you’ll be reaching, like “my license is in my wallet in my back pocket” or “registration is in the glove box in the folio with my owner’s manual.” This way he doesn’t mistake your reaching or digging for something else. Telling him you may need to pull a black folio out of the box lets him know it’s not something else.

If possible, have your wife sitting next to you knitting or crocheting. Last time I was pulled over for speeding, my wife was crocheting a blanket in the passenger seat. I think the officer concluded we were not much of a threat to anyone’s safety, and although I was doing 80 in a 65, I was given a warning.

Oh yeah, one more: before the officer gets there, TURN OFF YOUR RADIO. Just don’t turn it down, turn it off. No need to irritate the officer with your taste in music.

57 Matt February 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

I’ve never been pulled over. But years ago after my mom got off active duty from the First Persian Gulf War, she got pulled over. When she went to get he ID, the cop noticed her military ID and said,”You’ve got enough on your mind.” He let her off with a warning.

If you are in the military, keep your ID in front of your license much like the commenter above who mention the Eagle Scout ID.

58 Steven S. February 16, 2013 at 7:10 am

I was an LEO for 26 years and the best advise I can offer is DO NOT violate the “asshole rule” – yea that is what its called.
Most officers have a pretty good idea as to if they are actually writing THIS ticket,and they are flexible as to it is up to them.
SO,doing as was posted is a great idea [ ALL windows down/lights on/HANDS in plain sight ] but keep the smart comments till after your both relaxed and in the mood for humor [ IF that moment comes ].
AND remember that your passengers comments and attitude carry weight as to if your getting a summons too.

59 Derek February 16, 2013 at 7:22 am

It helps to get pulled over within eyesight of your home. This has happened to me several times. When the officer asks “Where are you headed?” Just point and say, “My house. It’s right there.”

60 Paul February 16, 2013 at 7:43 am

I live on a small island in Thailand. Near the end of every month, close to wages time, the police set up road stops.

These are specifically to catch tourists riding without a helmet – this is illegal in Thailand, though for the rest of the month everyone does it without problem. Oddly it’s only the driver who has to wear a helmet, not the passenger or passengers … this is Thailand after all, there are often 3, 4 or 5 on a bike).

If you’re Thai you pay 200b (about $8), if you are a Westener it might be 1000b ($40). If you are a local you give them the name of an important friend. The officer calls them, checks your story then lets you go.

In all cases you can carry on riding without the helmet!

61 James February 16, 2013 at 8:09 am

I’m an eight year veteran of law enforcement, and this is all excellent advice.

One thing to be aware of is the fact that in some instances, if you decline to submit to a search, a police K9 may do an exterior sniff of your vehicle. This is legal so long as you aren’t detained longer than it takes to write a citation. Bear in mind, some officers will only write one but have grounds to write more, and will start writing more if you decline a search. I once wrote a guy fifteen citations while waiting for a K9. After finding the cannabis he’d been afraid of me finding, I let him go with a warning on the cannabis, then helped him fix all the equipment violations and got the judge to dismiss most of the citations once we went to court. Most officers aren’t as nice as I am.

62 pk47 February 16, 2013 at 8:25 am

Fred makes great points above with how he handled the stop in TX. Hopefully if any of you carry you also know the laws for where you are carrying as each state has differences in the law.

One key in my state is that the CCL will be attached to any license plate of a vehicle registered to you. Before they approach the vehicle the officer will know a concealed weapon may be present. If your spouse/child/etc. is driving your car and doesn’t have a CCL, you still should instruct them how to handle the stop – tell the officer that he/she is not a CCL holder, and that they have no weapon. The goal is to make the situation safe for the officer (besides conducting yourself within proper constitutional rights).

63 Elijah February 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

I was taught that even if state law doesn’t require disclosure of ccw license, or you’re licensed but dont have it on you, your license is still going to pop up when the officer runs the drivers license (vice your plate). So if you didn’t disclose it at the start, the officer’s going to wonder (a) are you carrying, and (b) why the bleep didn’t you mention it. Probably doesn’t help.

64 Josh February 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

After an embarrassing incident of rummaging through my glove compartment for 10 minutes for my documents, I now keep them tucked away in a pocket of my sun visor. Luckily I haven’t needed them since then but, I wish I had thought of it before.

65 George F Matheis Jr February 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

I retired from law enforcement in 2007, the agency I worked for was about 30 miles north of Baltimore on RT 40. In 2004, the last time I pulled my stats I conducted over 1100 traffic stops. There is some good advice, here is more.

Take a breath, the officer is not going to hurt you

Make eye contact with the officer

If you know his rank or agency, address him by it

If you see him listening to or talking into his radio STOP TALKING

DO NOT use your cell phone

Unless spoken to, everyone except the driver should be quite.

66 Stephen February 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

The claim that a police officer’s job is “dangerous” is patently false. Fewer police die on the job each year than farmers, roofers, fishermen, loggers, taxi cab drivers, truckers and trash collectors. Police work is not even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs.

Most cops who die on duty are killed in common traffic accidents, many of which are their own fault.

When you take away common traffic accidents (which the police count toward being “killed on duty” in order to make the profession seem dangerous), only 69 cops were actually killed by criminals last year out of nearly 1 million cops in the nation.

This is barely half the national average. Police DO NOT HAVE DANGEROUS JOBS. That is a lie and deliberate propaganda.

They do not need military grade weaponry. They do not need to treat us like the enemy – which they do every day. They do not even need sidearms if the truth be told. They should be unarmed and wear ties instead of combat boots and GI Joe costumes.

And they sure don’t need to be making roadside holdups to steal money for their masters.

67 Sam February 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

The last time I was pulled over the officer told me my window tint was too dark, and that as the reason I was stopped. When I gave him my DL he saw my Paramedic License and let me go with a warning. I drove the car for 3 years after that and was never stopped for dark windows again. I’ve often wondered why I was stopped in the first place.

68 Kyle February 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

Anyone else ever been asked, “Do you have any firearms, alcohol, or weapons of mass destruction in your vehicle?”

Not making this up…the officer looked like he was 12 and brand new to the Texas DPS up around Lubbock. Didn’t help that he pulled me over while I was doing 65 in a 70 (and getting passed, in broad daylight, too).

Same guy pulled a buddy of mine over (I was in the truck and we were headed to umpire a college baseball game) because his “tint was too dark.” Being that it was factory…don’t know what this guy’s deal was.

69 Sam I. February 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

Many officers will sit for a minute after they pull over a vehicle, just watching driver behavior. Sitting calmly, and not rooting around too much will do a lot to ensure a less jumpy patrolman.

70 John February 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

Someone else may have flagged this already, but until the officer arrives at your window, don’t undo your seat belt. I did once when I was stopped and the first thing the officer asked was if I had been driving without a seat belt.

71 leelu February 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

All true.

Best advice I ever got was from a police office teaching my traffic school class – “First thing you want to do is pass the ‘attitude test’.” I’ve also gotten into the habit of getting and putting my wallet, registration & insurance on the dash, then waiting with my right hand on top of the passenger seat, my left out the window or on the wheel.

For night stops in Ca, the office will park behind you with the high beams on. They can see you, you can’t see them. It’s uncomfortable, but safer for the officer, less stressful, therefore safer for you. And, on the freeways, they will usually come over to the passenger side so they don’t get clobbered by traffic. First time that happened surprised the heck out of me.

Also, in Ca, you are not required to stop for an unmarked car. That was a result of the Caryl Chessman murders in the 50s. Calling ’112′ won’t get you anything. That is an urban legend. Call 911 instead.

72 Darl February 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

Take my word for it. Do NOT remove your seat belt to take out your identification before the nice officer sees that you have it on. What might have been a “watch your speed” warning turned into a $75 belt ticket for me.

73 Jerry February 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

This story is from a police officer’s point of view, and was the most disarming (I mean that in a good way) conversation I ever had on a traffic stop. I stopped a young women in a late model Mercedes for an expired inspection sticker and registration. After I explained why I had made the stop, I asked if there was some reason they weren’t current. She said, “I’m getting a divorce, and my husband always took care of that. I’m just now learning to be an adult”. What could I do? I explained all the procedures and wished her good luck.

74 Robert H February 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

Excellent advice. I’ve been pulled over three or four times in my life and have yet to receive a ticket. One stop was for rolling through a stop sign, the others were for speeding and/or following too closely on a highway. In each case, I waited for the officer to tell me what I did and then I politely apologized for not paying closer attention to what I was doing. If I had a legitimate reason for being distracted (in one case I was speeding in a residential zone after driving almost 9 hours through the middle of the night to get home from a wedding), then I explained it, but I was always careful never to sound like I was arguing or trying to defend myself.

75 Shawn February 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’m a 15-year veteran truck driver, and was recently pulled over in a rig on I-20 @ I-285 in Atlanta (first time in 9 years).

I waited in the cab of the truck until the officer (Georgia DOT), came along my passenger side and instructed me to come out. I grabbed my binder with all of my truck documents and exited the cab. The exchange was as follows:

Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: I believer so, yes sir.

O: I pulled you over because you drove over the solid white line while merging onto I-20.

M: Yes sir. Did you happen to see the bobtail and the blue Ford in front of me?

O: No sir, I only saw you. What happened?

M: As we were merging onto 20, the blue Ford cut off the bobtail in front of me, and he slammed on his brakes. Since just before that I had been looking for my spot to merge anyway, I knew that there was a large opening to my left. Rather than slam on my brakes and cause a problem behind me, I just grabbed the hole to my left to avoid an accident. That’s where you came in.

After a brief moment of checking my license…

O: Well, I’m going to let you off with a verbal warning. Good eye, just be careful while merging on this highway.

M: Yes sir, I hate Atlanta traffic. You don’t have to tell me that twice.

A tip of the hat, and off he went.

76 Ruben February 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

I really only take issue with, ‘…driving a distance to a safe area’ concept. Bad advice. Once you see the emergency lights come on, safely yield to the right, and do not continue down the roadway looking for a safer place.
1. If the officer is en route to an emergency elsewhere, the lights and siren may not be for you the motorist, and the article’s advice only unnecessarily delays the officer. Not too mention failure to yield is also a violation.
2. The officer has made a decision to activate the emergency lights and siren, and if its for you, then the responsibility for a safe location lies with the officer. They are trained to spot the violation and only light up the violator when there is a safe place. If the motorist continues without yielding, regardless of good intention and flashers on, the officer’s tactical game plan has been tossed out the window. That raises their concern for officer safety, and immediately starts the brain housing group to wonder, “Is this driver simply clueless, or in this driver leading me into an ambush?”
Just my thoughts… I’m been a cop for 23 years in So. California.

77 Ruben February 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

Just another thought… If the traffic enforcement stop ends with the motorist getting a citation, the motorist should ALWAYS end the contact in an amicable manner.
1. I’ve had angry motorists vent that their taxes pay my salary and they would “see me in court!” And I ALWAYS made sure to show up in court for those appearances.
2. I’ve had wiser motorists end the contact with a kind word, and even one lady that sincerely acknowledged I had a tough job and to “please be careful. We need you.” That was a first. Legally I couldn’t void the ticket, but legally I could write a dismissal request to the court and did so at the end of shift.

78 Mark February 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

“The worst that can happen during a routine traffic stop is that you’ll have to pay a fine.” No, the worst thing that can happen is you can be killed. ANY interaction with the police has the potential to be your last. Police are not like they were 30 years ago. They are amped up and perceive you as either a danger or someone they can fleece. They best thing you can do is keep quiet, don’t answer any questions and comply with all orders they give. If you are lucky you will lose $100 and a day of your life in court.

79 Mr. Obvious February 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

This advice works only so well – you don’t really know why the police pulled you over, nor do you know what their hopes are for the stop. I am an attorney and was recently arrested for the heinous crime of changing lanes within 100 feet of an intersection. Horrific, I know.

Why was I arrested and not given the chance to sign the ticket? Because what the author doesn’t tell you is that every single traffic violation and trivial law allows the police the ability to arrest you. They don’t need to let you sign the ticket. The cop in my case desperately wanted to search my car for some reason and told me, once he found out that I am a lawyer, that he thought I might be involved in a break in that happened a few weeks ago.

The key bit of advice I would tell ANYONE when dealing with cops – if you’ve got a smart phone, you’ve got a video camera. Start recording the second you’re pulled over, face the camera towards you so that the camera gets a clean shot of you and the cop. Don’t tell the cop you’re recording, you don’t need to. Once the ticket has been issued, contact the court and ask for a copy of the police report. The police officer will very likely have events out of order, add events / statements, etc. Why? Because they write them from memory and don’t have the benefit of tape. In court, ask the officer to draw a timeline on a white board, indicating where certain events he mentioned in the police report occurred. Then play the tape. After the tape, ask the officer why such and such happened in the tape, but not the report. Ask why statements recorded in the report weren’t captured by the video. Ask whether his memory of the event, in light of the fact that it’s clearly filled with errors, is better than the tape. Ask how he can be sure he even observed a violation if he has so many errors in the report.

You should win the case at that point.

80 Stephen February 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Trifith’s advice is also very good. Record the stop, and have your camera in place in advance as well as good audio.

There are only two things you should ever say to a police officer during a hold-up:

1) Are you going to issue a citation?
2) Am I free to go now?

Other than providing your state papers, there is NOTHING else that the cop needs to take care of the actual reason for the common traffic hold-up. Everything else he says is merely fishing for other reasons to cite or otherwise assault you.

If the officer refuses to let you go, yet is not filling out a citation, simply say:

“Officer, Boyce vs US 2003 allows an officer to detain a citizen only for as long as necessary to actually fill out the empty lines of a citation. Am I free to go now?”

You will surely get a ticket for daring to question one of the elites, but it is better than the alternative.

Do not try to talk your way out of a ticket. Cities don’t make money by letting you go. And cops are highly trained in manipulative speech. You will not outsmart them or out talk them. And they can lie to you and falsely threaten you with no consequences (the law actually allows them to lie, believe it or not).

Accept that you are going to get robbed, speak as little as possible, and get away from your attacker as soon as possible.

81 Stephen February 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I used to work in traffic tracking and stats and got this from USA Radio Network around 2002 (yes, the stats are dated, but you get the general idea here).

When a male cop holds up a female motorist, she will avoid a citation 72% of the time.

When a male cop holds up a male motorist, he will avoid a citation 42% of the time.

When a female cop holds up a female motorist, she will avoid a citation 29% of the time.

When a female cop holds up a male motorist, he will avoid a citation less than 9% of the time.

In other words, if you are a male driver and you get held up, you ARE getting a ticket. Don’t try to talk your way out of it. Cops have heard every story there is to hear and they are hardened against the pleas of their victims, no matter how truthful and heartbreaking your story might be.

Give them your state papers, do not speak, and get away from them as soon as possible. Unless you’re a female with a great body or the ability to cry on demand, generally speaking, you ARE getting a ticket.

82 Stefan February 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

@leelu; 112 is the European 911. And they are actually able to guide you through such events.

In Western Europe, most police cars just overtake you, and signal you to follow them to a parking spot, since European roads are way more crowded than American. This also offers them a better view of the driver, while being parked in front of them. And the stricter gun laws in Europe might also have lead to this; in Europe the biggest risk is somebody trying to make a run for it.

83 Anthony February 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

As a cop in Chicago, I can honestly say that we let more people off with a warning than we actually write tickets. The thing to understand is that we as officers don’t control any situation we are in, we react to you. If you’re pleasant we will probably let you go with a warning (assuming you have a valid license and insurance). We don’t have a monthly quota, or any quotas. The people that get issued citations around here more than likely talked themselves into the ticket. And for the guy that suggests you record the police officer even after he requests you don’t. That is not very smart. You will definitely be issued a citation. And when you go to court your recording isn’t going to prove your case. Chances are the judge isn’t even going to listen to it, the question will be if you committed a traffic violation, not what happened afterwards. Besides, we are recording it and chances are we recorded the violation too.

84 Jim Morrissey February 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

A few years back one evening, I was circling for the fifth time to try to find my new boss’ house for a party. Rather than have to go through Kenmore Square again, I decided to take a left turn at a light and turn around. NO LEFT TURN sign was clearly visible. Decided to do it anyway, and when half way through the illegal turn saw the cruiser sitting quietly in the dark. I Completed the turn, immediately pulled over on the right side of the road and waited. Cruiser came up quickly behind me and almost passed me. Two officers got out, I thrust both empty hands out the window and said, ‘Guilty, I did it, I am lost, and I knew it was illegal! Cuff me!’. Both officers had a chuckle, politely checked my license and registration, gave me a verbal warning, and then led me directly to my boss’s house. What else was I to do??

85 Marc February 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Honesty is the best policy I have been pulled over on three different occasions for speeding, on all three occasions as soon as I saw the law enforcement I checked my speed so I knew about what I was going, on all three occasions they asked me why I was being pulled over, I responded speeding, they said yes, on all three occasions they asked me if I knew how fast I was going, on all three occasions I said after seeing you and checking my speed I was going (honest speed) each time they said your correct, on all three occasions I got off with a warning, I asked my officer friend about this and he says he watches everyone check their speed (look down at speed odometer) and then 90 % lie to them, he then writes them a ticket. He says be honest say your sorry and he rarely writes tickets, I have found this to be true on 3 different occasions. I would love other Officers opinions on this, I will also say I’m 43 and have not had a ticket in 23 years so my driving record is clean.

86 Alexander Connell February 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm

A cop friend of mine told me never consent to a search of your vehicle unless you want them to ‘find’ something you never knew was there. Sound advice.

I tend to be something of a cop magnet and get pulled over frequently often on the flimsiest pretext. Although curiously, only when I drive my beat up truck. When I’m in my wife’s late model sedan, I’ve only been pulled over for valid reasons. Hmmm.

I have to say that in the vast majority of cases, the LEO has been polite and efficient. Just checking for drunks and the like. However in my time, I’ve run into some absolute lulus and I have to wonder what these loose cannons would do if they actually ‘had’ something concrete.

It’s sad because for the vast majority of citizens (at least in the US) the only interaction we have with the police is when we’re pulled over. These few a-holes make the job of every good cop that bit harder.

87 Nick February 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I don’t have a concealed carry permit, so I’m not sure if you sign over any rights when you obtain one; an officer can ask for your gun, but you don’t have to relinquish control of your firearm during a stop. If you do nothing to arouse suspicion in the officer and are not being stopped for anything related to said firearm, then handing it over would be voluntary on your part. Similarly, in states with open carry, if you’re openly carrying and law enforcement approaches you and asks you to ID yourself for no reason other than curiosity, you would be under no obligation to do so.

88 j. Michael February 16, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Greta article; as always, but I would like to point out one obvious item. Theodor Rex would naturally win. Not to mention he is the only president who could have. That includes if Taft performed a belly splash…besides I do not think he had dexterity to climb to the top rope!

89 Nick P. February 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm

This was a great post. Politeness may not get you out of it but it will keep it from getting worse. I got a speeding ticket once and when I went to court I found out the the state trooper had written a note on the back of his copy saying had he not had a trainee he would have let it go with a warning due to my politeness and honesty.

Perhaps a side note to the post. if you do go to court wear your best. You will stick out in a good way and a judge or D.A. will see something a little better than normal and may let you off. No promises just my opinion.

90 Mike February 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm


the hand break only stops your rear tires and by far increases the probability of a fishtail therefore you should only use it if you are parked! like it’s designed for. Also making a joke about your sisters ambulance trip is not cool. Ambulance trips are never funny.

91 Stephen February 16, 2013 at 11:34 pm

In response to Anthony, it is true that most municipalities no longer have official ticket quotas. Instead, they have unofficial quotas. As a traffic reporter and statistician, I once had a police officer attempt to deny that any quotas existed in his department.

“So if you’re sent out for traffic enforcement and you sit on the side of the road for four hours and don’t bring a single citation back, are you telling me that your boss won’t mind and he won’t say a single word to you about it?”

The officer responded, “Well, no… I didn’t say that.”

In the late 90′s most police departments began eliminating official quotas because news was getting out and it was an embarrassment. But the quotas are still there. They just don’t write them down anymore.

When a cop is sent out on traffic enforcement, he is expected to bring cash-generating citations back.

92 michael February 17, 2013 at 12:07 am

nope. 100% incorrect. his “safety” DOES NOT trump my constitutionally (the same one he swore an oath to uphold) protected, god given rights. he knew the danger when he signed the contract. keep your registration and insurance in an envelope on your dashboard( if he thinks you might be reaching for a gun when you reach into your glovebox and gets nervous, well, he’s a dumbass). no criminal keeps a gat in the glove box, he wears it in his waistband so that excuse to execute is crap. turn on the dome light, have your wallet out before he approaches the car, roll down the window and have both hands on the steering wheel. after you provide him your documents, unless you do not live in a non-disclosure state ( in NV if you have a chl., it shows up on the computer when they run your license plates) any questions are answered with “I DECLINE TO ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS WITHOUT LEGAL COUNSEL PRESENT” if he responds with a query to search your vehicle (because he DOES NOT have probable cause, he is just fishing or hoping to plant evidence, how many l.a.pd cops are serving felony time for this?), ” i do not consent to any search”. if he responds with “i can hold you here and get a drug dog” reply ” i understand that am i being detained ( a legal term) or am i free to go?” if he cannot legally justify detaining you, legally he must let you proceed about your business. they are ALL trained in coercion techniques and word games and escalating a simple interview into a felony take down. asking a cop what to do in a legal event is like asking obama how much extra you should pay in income tax.

93 undeadGraduate February 17, 2013 at 12:24 am

I have been pulled over only a couple of times, and have been given warnings on all but one so far. I incident in which I was given a citation is a good one. I was leaving my driveway in a hurry I needed to get across town to take an exam for a class out at my community college. I get to the bottom of my street and turn the corner, I can feel that I did not grab my wallet. So I pulled down the nearest side street to go and get it. (I needed a photo ID to take the exam).

At the top of this street is a stop sign, I didn’t see it as I was looking the other direction to see oncoming traffic. I rolled right through it. As I turn my head back I see an unmarked cop car dangerously U-turn (I mean he almost went onto two wheels, tires screeching the entire time. ) and then pull me over.

I slowly and cautiously pulled over, I did pretty much everything stated above. The officer comes over, does his speal and asks for my license and registration. I informed him that I was going back to my house to retrieve it. The best part was his way if asking for my address to look me up. He didn’t just go “what’s your address?” No. He said in the most annoyingly smart-assed way possible, like I was three: “If I were to mail you a letter, where would I send it?” This was the only time in my life that I wished I had a P.O. Box.

(Back-story) I drove a small pick-up truck, one with the sliding window in the back. For those that don’t know, when driving around, anything in the bed of my truck would blow into the cab if all the windows were down. In this instance, some cellophane wrap.

Back to the story: As he is writing my details down he notices the cellophane and inquires about it. From my seat I couldn’t even see it along the inside of my windshield. I picked it up and it smelled like chocolate and I told him that. Apparently he thought it was a baggy for weed so he asked if he could search my truck. I appropriately said no and he acted like I had hit him.

Because I wouldn’t consent a search he brought in two drug dogs to sniff the outside of my truck. They didn’t find anything which only made him madder for some reason. He then gave me a ticket for running the stop sign, $275, and said that he wasn’t going to cite me for not having my license on me. The only nice thing he did.

94 Steve February 17, 2013 at 2:11 am

I have only been pulled over 3 times in the 45 years I have been driving, but the first time was quite scary. At the time I wore a very long beard and long hair, and my commute home from work took me through an affluent area where my pickup truck looked very out of place.. Anyway, a state trooper lights me up and I pull over. As the trooper was approaching it seemed that he was very nervous and had his hand on his side arm. In order to lighten things, I made a joke about this being my first stop ever. He asked me if I knew why he pulled me over, so I pointed to my cracked windshield and asked if that was the reason. The trooper stuttered and mumbled a little bit and stated “Uh yeah, that is why, get it fixed”. I got off with a warning that day, and only when I got home did I find out that about an hour earlier just 50 miles from where I was stopped a group of radicals had shot and killed a state trooper and my physical appearance caused the officer to believe that I was somehow associated with the group. Only after I joked and made light of the stop did he relax enough to remove his hand from his firearm.

95 Kory February 17, 2013 at 5:35 am

Years ago I was pulled over for going through a red traffic light right after it had changed. I had attempted to stop, but due to the icy roads I chose to continue through at normal speed instead of a questionable stop. The officer asked me “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

I responded “Was it the orange light I went through?”

Officer “Orange?”

Me “Yeah orange, a mix of yellow and red.”

The officer started laughing and let me go.

Honesty and a little humor can go a long way.

96 Don Kugelberg February 17, 2013 at 6:08 am

I’d like to enter the Huckberry Weekly Giveaway, If I win I’d like a large Recon bag from Defy Bags.

97 Clark February 17, 2013 at 7:08 am

At age 53, I have learned what to do in light of the fact that since 9/11, people have become our police, police have become our judges, and judges have become our dictators. Police seem to have forgotten their motto of, “protect and serve”, and now see the public as the enemy. They have too often been referred to as “heroes”, when in fact they are simply doing the job that they decided to perform.
When pulled over, I would not say anything. My last encounter of politeness with police after a minor traffic violation (admitted) resulted in a verbal and threatening rant by a patrolman that should be doing something else.

98 Mike February 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

Coming from a 30-year veteran law enforcement officer, the vast majority of officers are not “out to get you.” We simply want you to be safe. Many of the responses I have read have been derogatory toward officers for simply trying to keep the streets safe. When I pull someone over, my goal is not to see if I can write you a ticket, but to check your attitude so, hopefully you will realize your mistake and not repeat it. Also, I am much more likely to not write a citation if the driver admits and sincerely regrets what he/she has done. Many posts were directed toward getting out of a ticket or preparing for court, when the officer is simply doing his/her job of convincing you to not commit the violation you just committed. Also, here in the South, many drivers have guns in their vehicles, and most officers are comfortable with that, as long as they know. As this very informative article stated, traffic stops are at least as stressful for officers as for drivers. Here is a thought – if you committed a violation, accept the penalty as a lesson learned.

99 Brian February 17, 2013 at 9:14 am

Great tips, and all of them practical & simple. May I add two that I learned from two of my uncles, both NYPD officers?
First, once you have turned the engine off and rolled down your window, take the keys out of the ignition and put them on the dashboard in plain sight. This assures the officer that you will not be trying to drive off. Some might think that it’s overkill, but you would rather convince the officer that you are cooperative. Better that than a Glock in your ear!
Second, and this one is subtle but very important: keep your eyes forward until the officer is standing at your window. The officer will see if you are following his or her movements, and wonder why. It implies that you are clocking them, and that will put them on alert. Don’t watch them through the mirror or turn around to see what they are up to.
I have only been pulled over twice in my life (I’m 42) and have been through a few roadblocks. Every time, I’ve had the officer comment positively on my co-operation and consideration. It has made the situation much easier – for them as well as myself. As a law-abiding citizen, I consider it both tactically sound and civic-minded to make the officer as much at ease as possible.

100 An Agitatortot February 17, 2013 at 10:00 am

I would like to comment on the article but you lost all credibility with the statement “Sudden and violent attacks are common. Dozens of officers are killed each year by gun fire during traffic stops.” Police like to perpetuate the myth that there is a “war” on cops. While the job is dangerous, according to the FBI statistics on Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted for 2011, only 72 LEOs (out of nearly 600,000 registered LEO’s across the US) were killed as the result of a felonious assault (i.e., handgun or knife). Of those 72, only 11 died during a traffic stop. In 2010, it was 56 total and 7 during a stop. In 2009 it was 48 total and 8 during a traffic stop. In 2008, it was 41 and 8.

Yes, that is too many deaths, but the total number of felonious deaths from firearms and other weapons is hard to describe as “dozens”, much less the number of deaths as a result of a traffic stop.

Admittedly, this does not include data about death from accidental means or injury as a result of an assault or accidental means. But the police unions would very much like the people to think that they are under constant assault and that they suffer casualty rates on par with the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan when that is simply not the case.


I am a huge fan of the blog, but I expect more critical thought.

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