How To Handle Yourself During A Traffic Stop

By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

It’s more likely than it’s probably ever been that you’ll get pulled over by a cop at some point in the near future.

Not only are there more penny-ante laws and violations on the books than ever, state and local governments are dealing with major cash flow problems, just like the rest of us. They can’t raise taxes directly; that would spark a revolt of the masses at this point. But they can turn loose the cops — whose ticket books and radar guns serve as a very effective means of indirect taxation.

So, first, be on the alert.

Second, be prepared. Do you know how to handle yourself during a traffic stop? How you behave can be the key factor that determines whether you can successfully beat the ticket later on — or maybe (if you’re really lucky) get off with a warning right now.

* Pull over the right way.

Yes, there is a definite right way to pull over during a traffic stop.

When the cop turns on his lights, you should immediately slow the vehicle and put your turn signal on. Then pull off the road — to a shoulder or side street — as quickly as possible. Do not stop in the middle of the road. The idea is to park your car so it’s out of the way of traffic — which makes the stop safer for the cop. Which makes him happy. Which is good policy, because aggravating the cop — or conveying the impression that you’re an addled idiot — will not help you.

Next, put the car in Park, shut down the engine, turn on the hazard blinkers and turn on the interior light (if it’s dark outside). Put both hands on the top of the steering wheel and sit quietly. Do not root around for stuff.

Again, the idea here is to make the cop feel safe by conveying the impression that you’re an Honest Joe or Jane — and not some thug.

Important: If you have a concealed handgun permit, keep it with your driver’s license (a paper clip works well). Do not reach for or produce your weapon.

When the cop comes to your window, hand him your license and your permit and tell him, “Officer, I have a concealed carry permit.” If you are carrying a weapon or have one in the vehicle, tell him exactly where it is but do not reach for it.

Usually, cops relax around CWP holders because CWP holders are by definition not criminals (having undergone state and federal background checks) and rarely cause trouble. But it’s very important to let the cop know you have the CWP before he discovers you have a gun on you.

* Be polite and cooperative but not talkative.

The cop is not your friend. Remember this. He is there to give you a ticket and anything you say can and will be used against you in court.

The cop is taking notes and trained to ask you leading and entrapping questions, such as “Do you know how fast you were going”? To which, you should reply along the lines of “I’m sure you have an opinion, officer.” Never incriminate yourself — unless you feel you did do something wrong and want to pay the fine. It’s best to keep the conversation as short, sweet — and forgettable — as possible.

If you are confrontational or sarcastic, not only will the cop remember you, he is much more motivated to see you’re convicted. If, on the other hand, you’re remembered as a nice, polite, cooperative person, the cop is more likely to not object come court time when the judge considers a reduced charge or “driving school” to nix the ticket.

* Take notes yourself.

If you are going to contest the ticket, you should be prepared to present facts in court — or have facts to give your attorney.

For example, was the speed limit sign clearly posted? If it was obscured by a leafy tree, and you can show this in court (keeping a small disposable camera with you in the car for this purpose is a smart idea) that is an objective fact that may just get you out of the ticket.

You want to record and keep track of any fact that either puts into question the offense you’ve been charged with or which serves as what they call in legal lingo a mitigating circumstance — such as the fact that you were rushing your pregnant wife to the emergency room.

At court, unless you have a driving record peppered with previous violations, you can almost always get the judge/commonwealth’s attorney to agree to a lesser charge, or even a reduced charge — or to drop the moving violation in return for agreeing to attend one of those day-long DMV driving schools many states offer.

The main thing they want is your money; the main thing you want to avoid is “points” on your driver’s record, because they can lead to hiked insurance costs for several years vs. the one-time hit of a fine.

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24 Responses to “How To Handle Yourself During A Traffic Stop”

  1. George says:

    'Am I free to go?' is what you should say.

    • Bert says:

      Got an ugly ticket that I want to get out of. My friend turned me on to a free site, (no email needed, they make money on advertisements) on how to get out of a speeding ticket. It has a pretty funny video and I downloaded the pdf, and it looks pretty cool. I am going to try it out. It is Let me know what you think… Bert

  2. JJ says:

    I never say any more than my name and address. If the stop is for speeding, I always ask the officer to see the reading on the radar/laser gun. If the cop objects, I tell the cop to call his/her supervisor. There is no law where I live which prevents me from seeing the readout.

    Never slow down or slam on your brakes when you see a cop who appears to be doing radar/laser duty. This is another admission of guilt. And never, ever pull over to the side of the road on your own when you are 100% sure you were caught speeding (another admission of guilt). Let the officer pull up behind you and signal you to pull over.

    • George says:

      'slow down or slam on your brakes' does not indicate guilt.
      Maybe there is something in the road, or the road condition generates pitch in your vehicle.

      I agree on the not pulling over part.

      If an police officer wants to pull somebody over, they would get in front of you and then signal to pull over.

    • Randy says:

      JJ it sounds like you have vast experience at getting stopped by the police. Although you say there is no law that prevents you from seeing the radar gun, is there any kind of law that you know of that says you have the right to see what kind of reading is on it and the policeman is required to show it to you? For that matter it is very possible that the reading is not on there any more anyway.

    • Randall says:

      whether the cop lets you see the gun or not is up to him. Not to mention he still has to have it locked into the gun. Do any of you watch the show speeders? Cracks me up. But every officer is different and to think that any one strategy is the best strategy is stupid. You have to get a feel for the type of person the officer is.

    • JJ says:

      In some states, if the reading is not present when you go to view it your ticket will have to be dismissed. I believe California traffic law requires this. The officer does not have to voluntarily show you the reading. However, if you request to see the reading and it is no longer present your ticket has to be dismissed.

    • Randy says:

      JJ that seems fair to me that they throw out a speeding ticket if the number is not the radar gun even though you were flying past other traffic by up to 30 mph. Sounds fair to me. I guess 50 years ago they could not give out any tickets for speeding.

  3. Jeff says:

    I have had plenty of success simply by more/less admitting to the issue. If I'm caught speeding, chances are I'm going 16mph+ over the limit. While I'm getting my registeration and insurance card, I say to the officer "I guess I was going a little fast there, huh?" This tells the officer that I'm not fighting him, that I'm aware that I was pulled over, but at no time admitting to what speed I'm doing. It also lets him know early on that I'm not going to stand there saying "I wasn't speeding" when we all know full well I was.

    By using this tactic, I've never received a written warning, much less an actual speeding ticket. Someone like JJ is what the article says we should be avoiding. JJ is the type of person a cop is going to remember.

  4. JJ says:

    Sorry, but my method works for me. "Going a little fast"? The judge or magistrate has a fine for you.

  5. southernboy says:

    Best not to admit you were speeding or to admit guilt of any type when pulled over . Any admission of guilt can be , will likely be used against you later in court . When you are getting the ticket that isn't the time to dispute anything , that is what lawyers & the courts are for . No sir , yes sir & thank you sir is about all you should ever say .

    In many southern US States they have started "so called safety enforcement campaigns" , bullsh!t …………..
    It's about the money they can collect not one thing more . And the numbers I just read in an article from a NC newspaper proves drivers in the 90-95% range believe limits are set too low .

    A quote from the article :

    "N.C. law enforcement issued more than 3.6 million speeding tickets from 2004-2008. But only one in six tickets ended with the driver ?guilty as charged.? The rest got a break like pleading guilty to "improper equipment" which carries no insurance or license points but the state still collects their money $ $,$$$.$$$+ .

    In more than half of N.C.'s 100 counties, the conviction rate was less than 50 percent. And in 16 of those, it was less than 30 percent.

    In posted zones of :

    55 the average ticket is 71

    60 the average ticket is 76

    65 the average ticket is 81

    70 the average ticket is 84

    ( data collected from NCHP files )

    Prosecutors say they're overwhelmed with the sheer volume and don't have time to review driving records to identify habitual speeders when they come to court."

    In NC 10 or under over the posted limit is no insurance or license points . And 16 mph & over the posted limit or 81 & over requires an automatic suspension of privileges for 90 days . Two ticket over 55 within a year require an automatic suspension of privileges for 30 days . So no one ever just pleads guilty in NC unless you're a clueless idiot . And One conviction for speeding can cost you as much as $3k over 3 years in insurance surcharges .

    In most states only an clueless idiot just pleads guilty with repercussions to driver's license & insurance surcharges .

    In NC the judges , HP troopers & the population in general are well aware of the fact that the limit are under posted to the extreme across NC . IF they for one minute tried to convict drivers of exceeding these ridiculously low limits the outcry would be deafening and they know it . An that outcry would in short order lead to higher limits being posted , and that would cost the state a fortune of missed fines as speeding would no longer be an issue .

    In this state just as it is the case in many states the real limit is reasonable & prudent . It's up to officer's discretion as to what he believes is too fast with NO , "0" regard to the posted limit .

    • Randy says:

      southernboy you are wrong. From what I read on this site there are thousands getting tickets for 5 mph over the limit. Your statistics must be wrong.

    • JJ says:

      Randy is wrong again.

    • Randy says:

      No JJ I was not the one that said a lot of tickets were for 5 mph it was others on this site that said that.

    • southernboy says:

      Randy were you responding to wrong post ?????? I never said anything about 5 mph over the limit …??…….I was quoting NCDOT "average pull over speed numbers and an article in a local newspaper .

      What part of what I wrote are saying I'm wrong on ???????????

  6. Randall says:

    Ok well I've tried the whole not admitting guilt thing and just about every time got the fine and points anyway. Just went to court to get it reduced or hope for PBJ which in MD is no points and a fine.

    What you could do is act like your speedometer is broken. Tell the officer you had it set on cruise control at such and such speed. Then he may just give you a ticket for a faulty speedometer. worked for me one time I tried it.

    Now that I'm older I try to talk my way out of a ticket by telling them I was just trying to stay within ten mph. Works for my friend, he always gets warnings. I think acting like you don't know the speed limit makes you look like an idiot who is not paying attention.

    Ultimately, it depends on the cop and your situation. No one way to handle it is the best or right way to handle the situation. You can go the whole remain silent don't say anything approach, but do you really have enough evidence to show at trial that you weren't speeding? i really think trying to talk your way out and trying to avoid court all together is better.

    Now if you know for a fact you were not speeding maybe the remain silent don't say anything wrong is your best approach but that has never worked well for me.

  7. Pirate News says:

    1. Turn on your digital audio recorder, and video if you have it. Hidden video is best.

    2. Pull over where it's safe, even if it means driving 10 miles for a parking space. Parking in the break-down lane is unsafe and perhaps deadly, so drive to the next exit.

    3. Don't tell a cop you have a gun. Let him figure that out for himself, since every cop is told that by dispatch when calling for a driver license (unconstitutional internal passport) criminal background check.

    4. Never answer a cop's questions, except name and home address.

    5. Any answer is probably a confession to a crime, such as "Do you know how fast I clocked you?" or "Didn't you see that stop sign?" If you were racing at 110 mph, just laugh as the cop walks up and say, "What the hell are you doing out here (racing me)?!"

    6. Never tell a cop if you've ever had a "traffic ticket" (criminal conviction). Most don't show up on background checks, and all will be used against you to decide whether to write a ticket, upgrade the ticket to a more serious charge, or increase sentence/judgment in court.

    7. Never grovel to a cop. Kick his/her ass in court if you want to.

    8. Lying to a cop is felony obstruction of justice — ask Martha Stewart.

    9. Never ask a cop legal advice — they're not licensed lawyers (neither are 75% of judges). Cops are always allowed to lie, since they are not under oath. Judges and prosecutors are always allowed to lie in court, since they're never under oath.

    10. Buy a copy of the cop's in-car video, to prove all the crimes the cop perped, while showing no crime by you. File an affidavit of probable cause for criminal complaint against the cop with the grand jury, and demand to testify about the cop's crime you eyewitnessed. File a Bill of Costs with the clerk after you win in court, for refund of your legal expenses.

    11. Parking tickets and photo tickets can be ignored and thrown in the trash, for lacking personal service of process.

    12. Always file counterclaims in civil traffic ticket trials. File class actions against police when possible, for violation of US Constitution and 42 US Code 1983 (Ku Klux Klan Act).

    12. Always remember that Gangster Government is run by insane criminals with millions of guns. Traffic court is like asking Al Capone to return the money his hitmen stole from you. Playing hardball get's superior results to begging like a slave. Read The Law for yourself, then enforce it on Gangsta Govt (they hate it when you do that). — How to survive 636 curves and 36 cops per 11-mile lap.

  8. Bill says:

    Much of this 'advice' is the worst advice ever. Pirate News has probably spent time in jail if he relied on his own advice. It's especially funny to see people contridict each other, proving that this is the worst advice ever.

  9. Tim says:

    I liked the article. I found the information informative and pretty reliable. Some of the other comments…..well, I wouldn't really agree.

    Police are people doing a job. People react to other people. Start acting like "Che" during a normal car stop and you can kiss ANY chance of a warning goodbye. Many officers haven't decided whether or not to issue a summons until they "meet" the drivers. Come off with a confrontational attitude right away (perfectly legal for you) and you're going to get your initial ticket AND any others you might not be aware of (perfectly legal for officer). Think about it, the guy hollering at you telling you "I'll see you in court" is making it perfectly clear he wants his day in court in front of a Judge. The officer is going to write EVERY ticket upping the ante should you loose. If every extra ticket is worth another $150 it's going to be twice as frustrating should you not convince the Judge of your innocence.

    The part about NOT being memorable is accurate. Every officer is different and each one handles their stops differently (sound familiar? people are all different too!). You may or may not get a warning, but act like a "smacker" and you're guaranteed a ticket. Why do it?? The funniest stories from some officers are the ones told by guys/gals who NEVER write tickets then stop someone like the anarchist poster below! The officer tells how he is pretty much boxed into a corner requiring him/her to write the ticket as the driver uses some of the tactics mentioned below!

    Pirate…..#2: Keep driving until you think it's safe, regardless if it's 10 miles or the next exit might land you handcuffs. The dash cam will show you failing to stop. Don't forget the extra ticket in addition to the criminal charge of eluding. (You don't have to speed up to be charged with eluding)

    #4: Don't forget your date of birth should you not have your driver's license with you. Don't forget you can be ORDERED out of the car to the shoulder to answer the questions necessary to fill out the summons and positively identify yourself. Failure to comply will also end with you in handcuffs.

    Some of your other tactics? Nothing is more fun than watching a guy come to court and try to use these things : ) The Judge shoots them down one at a time until the guy gets so pissed he reverts to name calling (30 days County Jail for contempt of court) OR he is ordered back into the court room in front of everyone to answer the Judge's question about what he just mumbled under his breath while he was walking away. Answer? I didn't say anything Judge. Judge: I didn't think you did. Catch 22…..say it again and you'll get 30 days starting NOW, don't say it and you've just proven to everyone in court that you don't have the courage to say it again to his face! I've seen it happen! One guy in 16 years had the courage. While en route to county jail he asked me what "consecutive" meant.

    Everyone, be careful how you act unless you are very familiar with what you are doing. The story had good basic advice, don't start deviating dramatically unless you are certain of what you are doing AND you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night!

    • George says:

      'convince the Judge of your innocence.'
      You are innocent until proven guilty.
      Secondly, trial by jury.

      If the police are 'pulling you over' they would be in front of your vehicle [involuntary stop], if they are behind you then it is a voluntary stop. So that is just nonsense about 'eluding'.
      It wouldn't be fair to call Pirate News an 'anarchist', it sound like he doesn't want his rights violated.

      The police have no authority to 'order' you out of your car. If they are going to make you come out of your car, then you are under arrest.
      and don't forget what the Supreme Court has said, if you are 'detained' [seized] for more than 15 minutes, consider yourself under arrest. The police have no right so search your car just because they arrested you-see recent ruling.

  10. Pirate News says:

    NMA knows its shlt, so buy it's ticket defense kit. At the very least buy the $30 book it includes by on How to Win in Traffic Court. It's written by lawyers and gives 95% of what you need to know. Civil and Criminal Rules of Procedure and Rules of Evidence in your state are what judges worship as their god, so read them and use them if you really want to win. Know the difference between civil and criminal (all cops, prosecutors and judges lie about this, on purpose or by ignorance). Always be ready and able to appeal, or you will never be respected (or feared) by judges and prosecutors. Always be ready for a traffic ticket trial to take many years in court, so build your endurance. Know your state's statute on Homestead Exemption and Affidavit of Indigency, which allows 50% of US citizens to avoid payment on any ticket, even when they lose in court. I've won many trials in traffic court using these facts of law. You can even get the judge to pay you for winning in traffic court, by filing a Bill of Costs, and using the US Equal Access to Justice Act (which also pays lawyers fees in criminal cases).

    Using an audio recorder is mandatory. I've had a cop literally RUN AWAY from me when he saw my recorder during a traffic stop, claiming some lame "emergency" over the radio (no ticket). That same Barney Fife previously warned me "to watch my back", when I saw him in a gas station. Cops routinely erase their own audio from police in-car videotapes, to allow cops to testilie in court.

    Use cops' in-car video to file criminal charges against cops from traffic crimes. Equal Protection doctrine in 14th Amendment to US Constitution requires that when govt employees get immunity, then everyone gets immunuty. Cops are never allowed to break a traffic law unless both emergency light and siren are on. If the judge refuses to arrest the cop, then all charges must be dismissed against you. I win those cases, even for running a stop sign.

    Radar detectors are useful, but cops rarely use radar to write tickets, often testilying about speed while never turning on radar. We have up to 36 cops per 22-miles using radar in TN, which more than tripled the death rate.

    I've also talked my way out of 110 mph traffic tickets, not by begging or lying, but by standing my ground and not confessing, and having a little fun with the cop.

    USDOT and Ralph Nader agree that speeding is SIX TIMES SAFER than driving a speed limit. It's legal to drive 250 mph on the Autobahn in Germany during ordinary commuter traffic (which averages 130 mph), with better safety than 55 mph on US interstates. NMA sells that book by Mark Rask, American Autobahn, as seen on History Channel at a LEGAL 212 mph at night, in the rain, with 100% safety.

    As for redlight camera tickets and parking tickets, the best legal defense is to throw the tickets in the trash and ignore them, for lacking personal service of process, according to lawyers, judges, politicians and Rules of Civil Procedure. Only suckers and slaves pay those tickets. Most of those ticket profits go to mafia contractors or overseas contractors, some in Commie China, not to govt in USA, so it's un-American to pay those tickets. Even cops shoot those redlight scameras using real bullets.

    I've seen cops literally stop drivers to park in the middle of the busy US highway in blind corners. On TV you see cops and drivers hit by crashes during traffic stops, because they failed to pull over at an exit. Traffic stops are a road hazard that's the #1 killer of cops. Just tell the cop and judge you were concerned for the safety of the cop, and that's why you didn't stop until it was safe (defense of Necessity). Would you rather be arrested or rather be dead?

    If the cop goes psycho, just shoot him, as many times as you can until he hits the ground and stops moving. Justifiable homicide in self defense is always legal, even for killing cops, as proven in many courts. Google Battle of Athens TN in 1946, where 500 ordinary citizens opened fire on 300 cops at a police station, using full-auto machine guns and dynomite, and made citizens arrests of all cops when they surrendered. The ordinary citizens were rewarded by Congress and the White House, and promoted to the news job of sheriff and all deputies.

    USA was founded on the concept of killing cops at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, where 100s of cops were killed in self defense. Remember that govt has always been run by psycho criminal thieves, serial killers and mass murderers, as proven throughout history. US Army Capt Hugh Thompson ordered his helicopter gunners to open fire on US soldiers in Vietnam, to stop the My Lai Massacre. Even bankrupt Nazi gay-porn star governor Arnold Schwarzennegger got famous killing a police station full of cops in Terminator. Hollywood and America love copkillers — I wonder why?

    The choice is yours. Do you want to play in the kiddie pool, or play in the Superbowl? Are you a baby or a man? Real men know how to make a citizen's arrest, how to testify to a grand jury, how to file Internal Affairs complaints (don't expect anything except a report), carry a handgun at all times, and can argue a case in court without a lawyer (many little women do that too, who tend to stay cooler under pressure due to less testosterone). That's the only good thing you can say about cops, too bad they mostly use that knowledge for evil to overthrow USA. Even the "good" cops are brainwashed (google Officer Jack McLamb and Sheriff Richard Mack), and no cop ever arrests crooked cops (unless they hide behind crooked cops at Internal Affairs).

    "10% of cops are honest, 10% dishonest, and 80% wish they were honest."
    -Detective Frank Serpico NYPD, testimony to Knapp Commission

    I've gotten over 100 mafia police contractors fired, and a court clerk fired, and filed 3 class actions, as reward for stealing my legally parked cars (no tickets). That was my punishment for writing newspaper articles about police-approved copkillings. Cops know they're not at the top of the food chain, and you can use that to your advantage.

    You MUST understand that police depts are merely criminal rackets run amok. Andy Griffin is just an actor on TeeVee. Wake up from the Matrix.

  11. Tim says:

    Here is his last sentence in his rant about killing cops:……."Hollywood and America love copkillers — I wonder why?" What kind of person, other than anarchist type sits around fantasizing about ways to murder police officers??

    You were right about my mistake regarding the "innocent until proven guilty". I stand corrected.

    Behind, in front of, alongside….continue for miles down the road and you COULD be arrested for eluding. Then you get to exercise your "innocent until proven guilty".

    You CAN be ordered out of a car. Come to NJ and refuse to get out of the car during a car stop. It can and HAS been done. Case law CLEARLY permits police to order the DRIVER out of a car during a motor vehicle stop. Refuse and you'll be arrested for obstruction. This isn't forum talk, that's the law, whether or not you like it. Resist your arrest and that will be another charge. Assault the police officer and that will be another charge.

    Once again, know what you're talking about or at least stay at the Holiday Inn.

  12. Tim says:

    BTW, there is NO trail by Jury for motor vehicle offenses in New Jersey AND your 15 minute number is NOT a hard and fast rule. The acutal amount of time varies with the evolving of the motor vehicle stop.

  13. K. Qualls says:

    In Texas, it is against state law for a government entity to set quoatas on tickets. However, they can mandate "activity minimums" for officers.

    In a large department (IE Dallas, Houston), officers are busy enough with crime to not worry with tickets. However, my department pushes traffic stops heavily, on the verge of quotas. Not tickets, but traffic stops. That is legal.

    Also remember that larger departments have Traffic sections, whose sole purpose is to write tickets. Officers usually (in Texas) have red tabs on their shoulders (vs. green for patrol).

    Most officers I know don't like to write tickets because they themselves speed off duty. In smaller departments, with activity quoatas and little crime, there is little choice but to write tickets.

    If you're stopped, make the stop as uneventful (not much that stands out for him/her to remember) for the officer as possible. If they write a lot of tickets, and son't remember you at court, you're case is more likely to be dismissed. At least that's the way it works in my city, which is very large, and has huge dockets in city court.