Tip for what to do when you are being stopped. Cooperate.

By January 4, 2014Uncategorized

If you are ever pulled over by the police, here is a tip that will help you be in a better position to challenge your ticket.

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Cooperate.

You should always be polite and courteous.  Never argue with the officer or become hostile.

When it comes time to fight the ticket in court, it often helps to challenge the officer’s observations and subjective conclusions. In some cases the officers have no independent recollection of what occurred at the time of the ticket. By arguing with the officer and failing to cooperate, you are increasing the possibility of the officer recollecting more details than usual.  Your goal is to be forgettable.

We once handled a case where a driver was pulled over for speeding.  While the driver was polite and courteous, the driver’s wife, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, yelled and argued with the officer.  When we met the officer in court, he remembered every detail of the ticket, including how the driver’s wife treated him.  Fortunately, because the driver was polite and courteous, we were able to negotiate a deal where the point violation was removed and the speeding count was reduced to a non-point violation.

Stay tuned for other tips.

Never admit to guilt.

You should never admit to committing the infraction.  The officer will use this against you.  First, in every instance, the officer must prove that you committed the infraction. Just because you’re contesting does not mean that you have to testify, that the officer will appear at trial, or that they can prove their case.  In addition, just because you agree that you committed the infraction doesn’t necessarily mean you deserve a ticket.  For example, the fact that you were speeding does not justify an officer’s attempt to entrap drivers using an illegal speed trap.

Later on at trial, you may also be able to argue that your actions were “legally justified” under the circumstances or that they were necessary to avoid harm or being involved in accident.  For example, while it may be illegal to cross over a double yellow line, doing so would be legally justified to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

Avoid Volunteering Information

In addition to not admitting guilt, it is also important remember not to volunteer information.  A traffic ticket case can be won or lost depending on what you say – or don’t say.  A good tip whenever you are pulled over is don’t speak first.  Let the officer start talking.

Also remember that many officers try to get drivers to admit that they committed a violation.  Try to answer the officer with short, non-committal responses.  If the officer tells you how fast he or she thinks you were going, don’t argue or volunteer information.  Give a short, non-committal response like, “I see,” or don’t say anything.  The officer may also start off by asking you questions whose lack of a definite answer would imply guilt.  Try not to fall for this trap.  For example, the officer may ask, “do you know why I stopped you?”  You can respond with a simple, non-committal – “No.”  If the officer asks – “do you know how fast you were going?” – a lack of a definite response may imply that you weren’t paying attention to your speed.   Instead, a short, confident and non-committal, “Yes” or “I do,” may be appropriate.

 Other tips

As soon as you see the police lights, put on your turn signal and pull over to the right safely and quickly.  This signals to the officer that you are cooperative and intend to obey his instructions.  By stopping as soon as you can, you also increase your chances of determining where the officer says you committed a violation so that you can make sure the officer’s observations regarding how you were driving were correct.

After you have pulled over, roll down the window all the way and keep your hands in a place where the officer will be able to see them, for example on your steering wheel. Avoid sudden movements.  Don’t bother rummaging through your glove compartment, bags or pockets for your license and registration until the officer asks you for them.  The officer may think you are reaching for a gun.

When the officer approaches don’t ask “What’s the problem?” or “Why did you pull me over?”  One of the first things the officer will do is ask for your license and registration.  Don’t insist that he or she tell you why you were stopped before cooperating.  Remember let the officer speak first.  Just answer, “okay” or “sure,” and then hand over the documents.

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