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What to Do When You Get Pulled Over

What To Do During A Traffic Stop

If you find yourself getting stopped by Johnny Law while on the road, the way you choose to handle it can affect you in a big way.  It’s important to be familiar with the procedure and to get it right.   

(Note that this article is simply a guide, and it is not to be used in lieu of or construed as legal advice.)   

When You First See The Police Vehicle

DO: immediately locate a safe place to pull over as soon as you become aware of the officer.  Put your hands on your steering wheel where they can be seen and come to a stop in a calm, safe manner.

DON’T:  drive faster, try to outrun the police officer, refuse to stop, or begin to rummage around in your vehicle while pulling over.   

What To Do Immediately Upon Stopping  

DO: Keep your hands on the steering wheel unless you are providing your documentation, or are told otherwise. Do follow instructions, speaking and moving with a calm demeanor. Remain in your vehicle, with the door shut, unless otherwise instructed. 

DON’T: put your hands in your pockets, rummage around for anything, make sudden movements or refuse to follow procedural instructions. Do not get out of your car unless you are told to do so.  

Don’t Do This. Seriously, STAY IN YOUR CAR with the door CLOSED.

Documents To Provide

In almost every state, the officer will ask you for three things:  your license, your car registration, and proof of your auto insurance.  

DO: Have a copy of your license, registration, and proof of insurance (if applicable in your state) readily available, in an easy-to-reach location. 

DON’T: Drive without these documents, or keep them somewhere that isn’t easily accessed.  Searching around for your phone or paperwork could be construed as dangerous to the officer (who doesn’t know for sure what you’re fishing out from under the seat), and could cause trouble.  

Speaking To The Officer

DO: Speak respectfully, truthfully, and only when spoken to.  

DON’T: Yell, display a bad attitude or hostility, use foul language, argue,  lie, threaten the officer, or refuse to answer a question you are legally obliged to answer.  Do not try to bribe the officer or negotiate your way out of a ticket.   

What To Do Afterward

It’s never good to have a bad attitude when interacting with law enforcement.

Once your interaction with law enforcement is complete, you are free to leave.  

DO: wait until the police officer is a safe distance away from your car before taking off.  

DON’T: take off immediately, or in a reckless way.  Don’t display a rude attitude upon your exit.  

Dealing With The Ticket

You will be given instructions on your ticket as to what to do, and when to do it.  If your car requires repairs, make sure you have a receipt proving your repairs have been done.  Photographs of the repair aren’t a bad idea either.  You may be asked to attend traffic school, which is available both online and in person.  Make sure all fines are paid on time, and do not miss your court date if you are given one.  

Contesting A Ticket 

Should you try to fight a traffic violation ticket?  Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Do you truly believe the ticket was given in error, and do you have reliable proof that the ticket was unlawfully issued?
  • Will going through this process be more stressful than just paying the fine and attending traffic school if necessary?
  • Is this ticket going to put points on your license?  If it does, how close does that amount push you to having it suspended or revoked?
  • Will this ticket have a significant impact on your auto insurance premium?
  • Will this ticket potentially lead you to jail time? (this may be the case for a serious violation like a DUI or DWI.)

Use these questions to decide what you would like to do going forward.  It may be wise to consult a legal professional or insurance agent if you cannot ascertain the answers on your own.