While most people feel like this is no big deal and can operate normally, there are some of us who get nervous and aren’t sure how to handle getting pulled over, and have trouble talking to the officer who did the stop.
To help with this, we’ve compiled a list of all the do’s and don’ts of getting pulled over to prepare you for the next time – if there is a next time, that is. Don’t go getting yourself pulled over just to practice your skills, now!
How To Respond When A Cop Lights You Up
The first thing you’ll run into is, obviously, seeing the police car. Sometimes there are instances in which we do not see them until the lights are on and we’re on the side of the road wondering what we did wrong, but if you do see them, the best thing to do is just pull over. That’s right, as soon as you see those lights going, pull over as soon as you can.
Of course, pulling over right away isn’t in any way an admission of guilt, and an officer shouldn’t take it that way, either. All it means is that you were aware of your surroundings, and stopping sooner gives you an opportunity to figure out what you were doing when they caught you, and will be more likely to calm them down a bit if they’re already irritated.
If you’re in a lane that isn’t close to the right shoulder of the road, slow down and use your signals to let them know you’re trying to pull over, and get to the right shoulder as safely as you can.
What To Do After You’ve Been Pulled Over
After you’ve pulled over, the best thing to do is to kill your engine. This automatically will relieve the officer of any worry that you may try to run. Roll your window down, get all your documents together – you likely know they will want at least your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration – and place your hands on the steering wheel.
You want to make sure the cop feels as safe as possible during the stop to increase your chances of a pleasant exchange (even if they do still issue a ticket); after all, put yourself in their shoes – many an officer has been killed during a routine traffic stop, and their position almost automatically places them in harm’s way.
Be respectful, courteous, and oblige them while you’re speaking with them. Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – get out of your vehicle unless they ask you to do so. I’m serious.
Talking To An Officer During A Traffic Stop
Speaking of talking to the officers, let’s go a little further in-depth with that, shall we? When talking to an officer, you can easily get yourself into trouble by being hostile, being too nervous (they’ll consider it suspicious), or by saying too much.
Generally, it’s best to let the officer do the talking, and be as respectful as possible when you answer them. When asked to hand over your documentation, a simple “Okay” or “Yes Sir/Ma’am” will do the trick, and then hand them over.
Don’t get an attitude with them, no matter how hurt your pride may be at the moment, and be as cooperative and respectful as possible. It’s also important to never admit any guilt.
You are allowed to answer a simple “yes” and “no” to any questions asked, unless otherwise prompted.
Police Officers Can Use Their Own Discretion
No matter what you do, it is completely up to the officer as to whether or not he or she issues you a ticket. In some states they also may ask you to sign it, but in others you may not have to; either way, signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt either.
If you do happen to receive a ticket, make sure you know what’s on it, and it is acceptable to ask the officer any questions you may have about it, if they fail to explain ahead of time. The ticket will document:
- The color, make, model, and registration of your vehicle;
- The date, time, and location of the offense;
- Violation (as well as the meter number, if it’s a meter violation);
- The officer’s name and badge number;
- Your fine schedule, and;
- The notice of ability to have a hearing if you’d like to contest the ticket.
Now that we’ve gotten the standard stuff out of the way, here are a few key points to consider when being stopped by an officer for a moving violation or other offense.
What you do and don’t do during a stop can save you lots of time, headache, help you keep your freedom, and in some cases even help you keep your life. Remember when I said it’s important for the officer to feel safe? Well, here’s where that comes in.
Thinks You Should Do During A Traffic Stop
Have all necessary documents in order and ready for the officer; if you don’t feel safe doing that – and some officer’s do look for movement inside the vehicle prior to approaching the car to indicate suspicious behavior, so sometimes it may not be wise – then quickly locate and hand the documentation over after you’ve been asked for it.
Pull over as soon as you can, in the safest way possible. If you are being pulled over on a back road, it is completely acceptable to wait until you reach a gas or service station before pulling over; if this is the case, simply engage your hazard flashers to let the officer know you’re waiting for a safe place to pull over, and if there’s any confusion after that, simply explain your intentions.
Turn on your interior lights if you’re being stopped at night. This will ensure they can see you and any moves you may make clearly when approaching the vehicle – remember, you have nothing to hide, so be calm, and be cooperative. After you’ve handed over your documents, be patient and wait for them to complete their necessary protocol.
What Should I Do if I Get a Ticket?
If the officer decides to give you a ticket, remain calm and respectful. Don’t let your actions show any indication that you are about to argue. It’s not a good idea to persuade them to recant the citation, too.
Instead, sign the ticket. Doing so doesn’t automatically mean that you agree with the citation. And don’t forget to check that your contact information is accurate.
You should receive a copy of your ticket for your records and it will contain the following information:
- Your contact information
- Your personal information
- The location of your offense
- The officer’s name
- The posted speed limit
- Your speed when the officer signaled you to pull over
- The preliminary court date for your offense
Listen carefully to the verbal instructions that the officer will provide on what you need to do to handle the citation. To be sure, you can ask him to write it down on a piece of paper (sometimes it’s already written on the ticket so make sure to check). Also, if there is anything that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask.
Depending on what state you are in when you receive the citation, you may be asked to pay a fine, or you can complete a defensive driving course. Some states allow ticket dismissal upon completing this course, so make sure you know your state driving laws.
If attending a defensive driving class is not one of your options, you will most likely end up paying the fine in full or you can opt to show up in court to see if you can get the citation dismissed.