What to do if you are pulled over

If you see those lights behind you or an officer waiving you to the side of the road, do not assume you are being issued a traffic ticket. I believe, just based on casual conversation with police officers that maybe 25% or more of car stops do not result in a traffic citation. Perhaps it’s a minor equipment malfunction or other issue that will simply result in a warning or perhaps the officer is just in a good mood. My advice is to talk, act and think as if there is still a chance that you can and will avoid being issued a traffic ticket.

With that in mind, here is what you can do (or not do) or say (or not say) after you are pulled over but before you are issued a traffic ticket that may help you avoid being charged with a traffic violation.

  • While pulling to the side of the road, don’t panic. Use your signal, look for a safe place to stop and look to stop as quickly as possible. You don’t want the officer questioning your judgment and driving ability simply because you had a momentary lapse in reason once you saw the sirens behind you.
  • Stay still once your vehicle stops. Don’t give the officer reason to believe you reached for something or are hiding something. Keep your hands on the wheel and wait for him to get to your vehicle.
  • Keep your seatbelt on. Wait until the officer asks and then unbuckle your belt and reach for your license and registration. This both prevents unnecessary movement helps ensure the officer won’t be tempted to issue you a seatbelt summons. Let him clearly see that you were wearing it all along.
  • Be polite. Maybe the officer was just going to warn you about some minor equipment issue or just give you a warning in general. Moreover, officers tend to have better recollection of cases where there was some confrontation on the road. When it comes time to deal with the officer later, you don’t want to stand out as a motorist who gave him a hard time.
  • If you have a PBA card or other document or information that you feel might discourage the officer from issuing a summons, use it wisely. While you are giving him the paperwork he requested you can show or tell him why he may want to reconsider. If you mention a friend or relative on the force, know which town or precinct he’s in and be prepared to explain your relationship.
  • Know where your paperwork is. Your insurance and registration and driver license should all be readily available. If you don’t have something or can’t find it, now you are essentially asking the officer to give you two warnings (one for the underlying reason for the car stop and one for the missing paperwork). The odds of the officer letting two violations go will naturally be less than the odds of the officer letting one violation go.

Some officers are going to issue the speeding ticket or other traffic ticket no matter what you do. However, the “art” of avoiding traffic tickets shouldn’t end once you are pulled over. There is still hope and following these tips can only help.