How to Handle a Traffic Stop
What Should I Do if I am Stopped by a Police Officer?
Ask anyone who operates a motor vehicle whether they or someone they know has been stopped for a traffic violation and the chances are pretty good that they will say they have. The reality is that traffic stops are relatively common on public roadways, and you may be subject to a stop yourself one day.
If you are stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation, keep in mind the following tips to increase your chances of avoiding a citation and to make the traffic stop safe for you and the officer:
- Slow down and safely pull over as soon as possible;
- Remain calm. Keep in mind that you may have committed a minor traffic violation which you are unaware of or the officer may have pulled you over because there is a problem with your vehicle.
- Turn off your vehicle engine and turn your dome light on;
- Remain in the driver's seat with both hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel;
- DO NOT exit your vehicle unless you are instructed to do so by the officer;
- Be courteous and non-confrontational. You should comply with the officer's request to see your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. If these documents are in your glove box or some other location, informer the officer of their location and follow the officer's instructions for retrieving the documents;
- Listen carefully to the officer;
- Remain polite and use your manners to respond properly to the officer's commands. Do not challenge the officer;
- If you do not wish to answer any questions until you have spoken with an experienced criminal defense attorney, that is your right;
- If you are issued a ticket that requires your signature, sign it. This is not an admission of guilty. You are merely acknowledging that you received the ticket.
- Ask for the officer's name and badge number.
- Determine if you can leave. You have the right to terminate an encounter with a police officer unless you are being detained or arrested. If you are unsure, ask the officer.
What Should I do if the Police Car is Unmarked?
Many police departments use both marked and umarked patrol cars for conducting traffic stops. This is done to remind drivers that any vehicle may be driven by a police officer, and therefore drivers should always obey traffic laws. In some cases, however, the driver of the unmarked vehicle attempting to pull you over could be someone pretending to be a cop for the purpose of carrying out an illegal activity. Impersonating a police officer is illegal.
If you are skeptical about the vehicle that is attempting to pull you over because it is unmarked and you cannot identify the driver of the vehicle, you should:
- Turn on your four-way hazard lights to notify the officer that you are complying with his or her request to pull over;
- If you have a mobile phone, call 911 and ask the dispatcher to verify that it is an actual police officer attempting to pull you over. This may be done by verifying your vehicle description and your location. In some states, there may be a special number posted along the roadside that will connect you directly to the state's highway patrol;
- With your hazard lights turned on, drive to the nearest well-lit and populated area;
- Attempt to attract the attention of a uniformed police officer;
- Once stopped, turn on your interior dome light as a signal for the officer to do the same;
- If the unmarked vehicle is operated by an officer wearing plain clothes, you may request that a uniformed officer respond to the scene.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Traffic Violation?
Depending on the circumstances of the stop and the kind of traffic violation you are cited with, you may wish to fight your traffic ticket in court. You should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to learn more about your rights and to determine what defenses may be available. Remember, you are to be treated with dignity and respect by the police officer. If you believe that you have been treated unfairly, you need to present your case in court.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 01-27-2011 11:36 AM PST