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Feifer & Greenberg, LLP
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10 Dec2019

Getting Pulled Over: Is the Police Officer Real or an Impersonator?

Many traffic tickets are issued throughout New York every day.  Most of these are legitimate car stops in the sense that it’s an actual police officer, one who is empowered to pull vehicles over and issue summonses, who is initiating the car stop.  

Unfortunately, there are stories every year around the country regarding individuals impersonating police officers and pulling people over with no authority to do so.  It is a potentially dangerous situation and anyone getting pulled over should at least pay close attention to any indications that something isn’t right.  

The good news is there are ways to determine if the person pulling you over is an actual police officer or if they just found a convincing costume, siren, etc. online. 

How to Spot a Fake Police Officer in New York

If you see a vehicle with lights and sirens trying to pull you over, first consider the specific type of vehicle.  The New York Police Department uses a variety of cars, including the classic Ford Crown Victoria, the Chevy Impala, the Dodge Charger, the Ford Escape, and more. 

While there may not be one specific right or wrong make/model, consider the condition of the vehicle itself.  Police vehicles are generally on the newer side and well maintained. If a car looks or even sounds old or in disrepair, it may be a sign that something is wrong.  

Of course, the ultimate identification of a legitimate officer is that officer’s badge/ID.  You can always request to see an officer’s badge if you don’t get a good look otherwise. You don’t have to worry about “annoying” the officer–you can always nicely mention that you’ve read some things about imposters and just want to make sure all is ok. 

 A real badge will be made of real metal, resting on a leather backing.  An ID will look something like a driver’s license with holographic decals. Pay attention to the officer’s uniform as well.

There may also be legitimate instances during which a plains-clothes police officer in an unmarked vehicle will pull you over. But these instances are few and far between. If you ever have any doubts, don’t risk it.  It’s a classic better safe than sorry situation.  

Call 9-1-1 and let them know you are being pulled over but you’re not sure if the officer is legitimate.  If it’s dark out, be sure to pull into a well-lit area. Let the dispatcher know that you aren’t trying to evade the police in case the car stop is legitimate, but rather you don’t want to be stopped in the dark.

When you call 9-1-1, the dispatcher will verify with the local police department to make sure you’re actually being pulled over. Police are required to report that they’re conducting a traffic stop, so dispatch will be aware. If the traffic stop isn’t legitimate, report where you are and don’t pull over! If you get stuck at a traffic light or stop sign, make sure your doors are locked and your windows are closed.

Get Help from a New York Traffic Ticket Lawyer

We’d rather people get pulled over by legitimate officers than imposters.  The damage an imposter might be looking to do is potentially significantly worse than any traffic ticket.  If everything does check out and you do end up getting issued a moving violation, know that you have some options. You can fight your ticket to potentially reduce the fines, points and other potential consequences. 

If you have any questions at all, please give us a call at (888) 842-5384 (TicketHELP) or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a New York traffic ticket lawyer today.