What To Do When Being Pulled Over


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Being pulled over by a law enforcement officer can be a stressful situation, even when the person being pulled over has done nothing wrong. In many cases, the law enforcement officer has the discretion of whether or not to give the individual a ticket or let him or her off with a warning. Some proactive steps can help increase a person’s likelihood of avoiding a ticket, including the following measures:

Pull Over Promptly

Once a person sees the lights or hears the sirens that are directed at him or her, this person should stop as soon as he or she safely can. In most jurisdictions, the person should pull over onto the side of the roadway once there is a safe opportunity to do so. Typically, he or she should not stop in the middle of an intersection or stop in another location that could be dangerous to the driver or the law enforcement officer. However, the individual should not simply keep driving for a long distance until the perfect spot becomes available. Instead, he or she should usually be able to find a safe place within a matter of a few seconds.

Turn on Hazard Lights

Turning on your hazard lights lets other drivers know of the driver’s presence. It also helps protect the law enforcement officer as he or she conducts the business of the traffic stop. It sends a message that you are concerned about his or her safety.

Assume a Non-Threatening Position

Roll down your window and place your hands on the steering wheel. Do not unbuckle or make sudden movements, especially at night time. Even trained law enforcement officers can feel intimidated and vulnerable during routine traffic stops. Avoid getting out your license, registration or other documentation before being instructed to do so as such action can be misinterpreted by an officer as an attempt to grab hold of a weapon.

Ask for Permission

When the officer asks for your documentation, the driver should be sure that he or she asks for the officer’s permission to retrieve the documents from the glove box or other location where they are located to avoid suspicion or making an impression that the officer is looking for a weapon.

Be Polite

Individuals who are polite to law enforcement officers are more likely to leave the situation unscathed when compared to others who may act inconvenienced or hostile during the exchange. Using terms such as “sir” or “ma’am” can help display courtesy and show respect for authority.

Be Honest

A person who is pulled over should not incriminate himself or herself. However, there may be factors that the law enforcement officer should be made aware of so that a just result can be the outcome. While law enforcement officers are accustomed to hearing excuses, the driver may be impacted by a real situation that caused him or her to break a traffic rule. For example, a law enforcement officer may pull someone over because he or she crossed the lane line and the law enforcement officer may suspect drinking and driving or distracted driving. If the crossing occurred because a driver was refereeing children in the backseat, the law enforcement officer may be more sympathetic. Likewise, if there was some type of emergency that caused the driver to speed, the driver may wish to share this information.

Take Responsibility

It is also important that the driver take responsibility for his or her actions. Apologizing in a sincere manner can help communicate that the driver acknowledges the wrong that he or she did and is taking the situation seriously. In some cases, a law enforcement officer may not issue a ticket if he or she genuinely believes that the driver will not repeat the offense again.

Don’t Argue

If the law enforcement officer decided to issue a ticket, there is likely nothing else to be done to avoid it. He or she has already made a record of the offense, so no talking back will help in this situation. Additionally, arguing with a law enforcement officer can subject the driver to additional charges.

Legal Assistance

If the traffic stop resulted in a serious matter or if the driver believes that he or she was issued a citation in a wrongful manner, he or she may wish to discuss the case with a criminal defense attorney. He or she may be able to advise the individual on whether contesting the citation is his or her best option.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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