Getting pulled over sucks. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will.
Quick story – A friend of mine recently got pulled over while I was in the car with her. She rolled a stop sign, the cop got behind her, activated the lights, and like a grown adult, she completely freaked out. Instead of pulling to the right, she quickly pulled into the center median and slammed on the brakes coming to a very quick stop.
Being the friend that I am, I didn’t give her a hard time about it. But the cop was not happy and gave her a ticket. The second she pulled into that center median was the second she lost any chance of getting a warning.
You see, there are certain things you can do to avoid a traffic ticket after getting pulled over and it all starts with not pissing the cop off. That’s what I’ll share with you here.
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As soon as you realize you’re getting pulled over, take a quick second to figure out what you’re going to do. Don’t slam on the brakes and for crying out loud, do NOT pull into the left shoulder or median. Take your foot off the gas, check your mirrors, and figure out your options.
If you need to drive a little way to get to a safe area, signal to the right so that the officer knows you’re workin’ on it. If you’re in the far left-hand lane with several lanes to your right, simply make the lane changes as you can safely do so.
The officer understands what you’re doing. Oftentimes, police officers will assist you in moving to the right and any traffic behind the cop will know he’s pulling you over. So just relax.
Do NOT pull to the left! Cops hate that! A mad cop is a cop that will not give you a warning. If it takes you a little bit to get over to the shoulder for safety reasons, the officer isn’t going to start shooting at your tires. As long as you are making a safe effort to pull over, there’s no harm done. The officer would rather you go to the right slowly than pull to the left quickly.
Get Pulled Over As Soon As Possible
I know, I know! I just contradicted myself! But the first thing you should be concerned with when getting pulled over is safety. Your safety, the officer’s safety, and the safety of all the people around you laughing because you’re getting pulled over (yes, you still need to be concerned with their safety, too). That’s why I said to not panic.
The second most important thing is building your defense case. Remember, when getting pulled over, a police officer is trying to build a case against you right away. That’s what a cop’s job is. Your job should be defending yourself from the second those flashing lights are activated.
If you’re able to safely pull over and stop relatively quickly, you will be more easily able to determine the exact spot the officer noted your violation as well as the exact spot you stopped. This is important if you want to fight the ticket in court.
It may be important in your case to have precise locations. If you’re on a two-lane road with wide shoulders, pull off as soon as you can safely do so without “brake checking” the officer behind you. If there’s a safer and more lightly traveled side street up ahead, put on your turn signal and pull over.
Parking lots should be avoided if possible. I won’t get into the list of reasons why, but cops hate sitting in parking lots after pulling people over for safety reasons. The more uncomfortable the officer is, the less likely you’ll get a warning.
If you’re able to safely do so, take out your cell phone and hit the “record” button then place the phone on your dash. Before the officer comes up to the car, state the day, exact time, and your location. You can use the built-in video camera or just use the voice memo feature on your phone. What we’re really looking for here is a recording of the conversation you have with the officer.
This could help you in so many ways during your defense. Just remember, reaching around in the car when getting pulled over will make the cop feel really uncomfortable, and rightfully so. Try to be inconspicuous about it.
Turn On The Water Works
I don’t care if you’re a dude or a chick, if you cry after getting pulled over, you stand a much better chance of being let go with a warning. I’ve spent many hours riding along with traffic enforcement officers. All of them have told me crying doesn’t help, but that’s not what I’ve seen with my own two eyes! It absolutely helps. Here’s a word of caution, though, especially if you’re a guy. Remember my last bit of advice? You’re recording everything. Say the cop still gives you a ticket and you need to use that recording in court. The entire courtroom gets to hear what a blubbering baby you are while you stand there. Cry at your own risk!
Keep Your Seatbelt On
Do not remove your seat belt. Keep it on until the officer walks up to the car and can clearly see you’re wearing it. The last thing you need is a bogus seat belt ticket on top of what you’re already getting pulled over for. This is also a way to help keep the officer feeling safe. It’s pretty hard to get into a physical altercation or run away when you’re strapped to your seat!
If you weren’t wearing your seat belt, just leave it off. By the time the officer is behind you, it’s already too late. Putting the seat belt on after you’ve been pulled over is a dead giveaway and will just attract attention to yourself. Why someone would choose to drive without a seat belt these days is a mystery to me, but hey, to each their own!
Wait for Instructions
Never ever try and get ahead of the officer in charge. Simply wait for instructions and don’t do or say anything unless being asked. You might want to start with a pleasant greeting to make the officer comfortable right off the bat, but afterward, be on the waiting end. Officers sometimes, although maybe unconsciously, want to feel they have power over their prey. And by playing along, you’re already winning them over slightly – that’s how you’ll get on their good side.
In most cases, you should stay inside your car. But if ever an officer asked you to step out of it, do not follow immediately, especially if you’re convinced that you did not do anything wrong. This is because some officer who happens to be on a bit of a power trip may ask you to step out of your car just to get to you, so don’t comply immediately.
But don’t be alarmed as it may lead the officer to think that you’re on the defensive, so instead, politely ask the reason why he wants you to get out. They might have a good reason behind the request, but if they fail to offer one, respectfully decline his request and insist on staying inside. This will not only save you from any possible physical altercation, but it will also show the officer that you’re not someone who will do every single thing that he asks you to do without questions.
Still, if you feel like complying with the request will be less of a hassle, take extra precautions before leaving your car. You might want to roll your window all the way up and lock the doors as you exit, and then calmly, but clearly, state that you do not consent to any searches of you or your property. This is just a simple reminder to him that it’s against the law for him to search you or your car without a warrant or your permission.
Make The Officer Comfortable
Officers are killed all the time during “routine” traffic stops. You may be the nicest and most non-violent person on the planet but the cop doesn’t know you. A police officer must treat every traffic stop the same and unfortunately, in order to remain safe out there, they have to assume the possibility that you could be a threat. By making an officer feel comfortable, your chances of receiving a verbal warning vastly increases. Here are a few tips to make a police officer feel safer during a traffic stop:
- Turn the engine off: This helps to show the officer you have no intent to speed away.
- Turn on interior lights: The officer will be checking inside your car for other people or weapons. If it’s at night, a nice courtesy for the officer is to turn on your dome lights.
- Stay in your car: One of the surest ways to get a ticket after getting pulled over is to exit your vehicle. Unless your told otherwise, just stay in your car, trust me on this one.
- Keep both hands on the wheel: Police officers like to be able to see your hands. If they can see your hands, they know you can’t hurt them with a weapon. Keeping your hands on the wheel is a great way to put the officer’s mind at ease.
- Advise Your Intent: Don’t make any quick movements. If the officer asks to see your registration but your registration is in the glove box, let the officer know. Don’t just go digging around in the glove box. Give the officer a little warning first, “sure thing Officer Friendly! I have to reach into the glove box though. Would that be ok?”
Turn On the Water Works
I don’t care if you’re a dude or a chick, if you cry after getting pulled over, you stand a much better chance of being let go with a warning. This could go really well if you get into action after making the officer comfortable, as you have established a connection at this point already.
I’ve spent many hours riding along with traffic enforcement officers. All of them have told me crying doesn’t help, but that’s not what I’ve seen with my own two eyes! It absolutely helps.
Here’s a word of caution though, especially if you’re a guy. Remember my last bit of advice? You’re recording everything. Say the cop still gives you a ticket and you need to use that recording in court. The entire courtroom gets to hear what a blubbering baby you are while you stand there. Cry at your own risk!
Sometimes, this can be a tough one. Just leave your ego at home. So many drivers get themselves a ticket after getting pulled over simply because they wanted to argue with the cop on the side of the road. If you argue with the officer, chances are you’ll get a ticket. Even if you don’t feel like you’re being treated with respect, now is not the time to handle that. If you are recording everything like in my earlier advice, you’ll be able to file a credible complaint against the officer if needed. Just remain polite, respectful, and keep your mouth shut as much as possible. The more you say, the more you will hurt your case. Remaining as silent as possible is your best chance of winning in court later. Arguing with a cop on the side of the road never works to your advantage. Never.
Don’t Incriminate Yourself!
As I mentioned above, after getting pulled over, it’s important that you remain as silent as possible. Police officers have been trained to solicit an admission of guilt.
The old question “do you know how fast you were going?” is a good example of that. If you say “no” the officer can claim in court that you were being negligent by not knowing the speed limit. If you say “yes” but admit to speeding, you just drastically decrease the number of ways you can defend yourself. Never admit to doing anything wrong at all but at the same time, never admit ignorance.
Here’s a quick mock conversation, just for practice
Officer: Good afternoon! Do you know what the speed limit is through here?
You: Yes, sir
Officer: What is it?
You: With all due respect, sir, I do not wish to say anything which might incriminate myself
Officer: I see. Well, do you know why I stopped you?
You: No, officer.
Officer: You were doing 65 in a 64.
You: I understand, sir.
Officer: Is there any reason you were driving so fast?
You: I’m in no hurry, officer.
Officer: Dang it! Say something to incriminate yourself!!!
You: No!! I won’t do it!!!
Oh, wait. Don’t yell at the officer. See, I would have failed the test. You get the point, though. Never say anything that might incriminate yourself even if you have to tell the officer, “I do not want to incriminate myself.” That is not an admission of guilt. It might not be the best way to get yourself a warning, but if you’re certain you’ll get a ticket anyway, you shouldn’t say anything that will give any indication of guilt.
There are certain things you are required by law to say or give to an officer after getting pulled over. For example, the officer must be able to identify you. In addition, you also need to prove the car you’re driving is registered, not stolen, and insured (in most states). Beyond that, you really don’t have to say much of anything.
Again, never, ever admit to doing anything wrong, even if you were doing something wrong. Admitting to driving 1mph over the speed limit is enough to ruin your court case. So be quiet! You’ll have your say in court.
If you follow these tips after getting pulled over, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting either a warning or winning your case in court (even if you are guilty). This certainly isn’t a foolproof system and telling the officer “I don’t want to incriminate myself” isn’t exactly a way to make an officer happy (you’re making his job more difficult). But it vastly increases your chances of winning in court and he knows it.
As long as you’re respectful, make the officer feel safe, record everything, and you don’t incriminate yourself, the chances of getting off scott free is very high, especially if you find yourself a good traffic attorney.