You know what I’m talking about! You’re on your way to work cruising down the highway, suddenly on the other side of an overpass you see a car pulled over by a police cruiser with flashing lights. You say to yourself, “better him then me”. Lets face it, the only time most of us are happy to see a cop is when we need one, or when they got someone other then ourselves pulled over by the side of the road. Like it or not, it’s a numbers game. Sooner or later we all get to experience that anything but calm feeling that’s associated with red and blue lights flashing in the rear-view mirror. As nervous as it can be, it is important to be prepared when you’re pulled over by the police. React the wrong way and it can end up costing you more money, or worse yet get you a ticket when just a simple warning might have been on the table. Here are 10 tips that can prevent things from getting any worse than they need to be.
Keep your Cool — Stay Calm and Relaxed…. This is not the time to get all jazzed up and become argumentative. Not only will this give the officer a bad impression (not to mention, make you look potentially guilty of something), but can make you appear to be dangerous, or even violent. When a police cruiser signals you to pull over, pull over right away and turn off the engine. Roll down the drivers side window and keep both hands on the steering wheel where they are visible to the officer. Be courteous, and don’t start reaching for your registration and insurance paperwork until your asked for it.
Keep Your Mouth Shut…. Do not say anymore than you need to. Give the officer short and concise answers, and do not admit guilt to anything. You are not obligated to admit anything. If asked why you were pulled over, respond by saying “I don’t know”. If you end up going to court over the incident, what you said during the stop can come back to haunt you.
Test the Waters…. If it’s been a few years or so since you’ve been stopped by a policeman, ask if you can get a warning. What’s the worst thing that can happen, the officer says “no”. Sometimes depending on the mood of the cop, and if your driving record is clean, you might get lucky with just a warning.
Consider Your Options…. If you get a ticket for a non-moving violation such as a parking ticket etc., consider just paying it promptly. A non-moving violation will not affect your driving record or insurance premium. However a moving violation is another story. The cost for these tickets can be quite expensive, and will put points on your license. Most insurance companies will use this as justification to raise your rates. When you pay the ticket, you are admitting guilt. Consider your options.
Take a Traffic School…. For most moving violations you can go to traffic school for a few hours. This way you are not admitting guilt, and you can eliminate any points from going on your drivers license. Often times the fine is less if you agree to go to traffic school. In most places they have several locations available, and even have weeknight or Saturday classes. This will prevent your car insurance from going up too! Insurance companies are not notified when you agree to take a traffic course.
Go To Court…. You can always request a court date, and try to fight your ticket. This option requires the police officer who wrote the ticket to show up in court. If for some reason the officer isn’t able to be there (the officer is on vacation, sick, or whatever), you will win automatically. In the event the officer does show up, be prepared. Assume this will be the case. You might be surprised at how many tickets are thrown out in court. Most people don’t bother to fight their tickets. If you were speeding and they got you dead to rights with radar, you better hope the officer doesn’t show up!
Be Prepared for Court…. If you go to court, think about how you will plead. Remember, that all goes out the window if the officer doesn’t show up! Depending on the judge, there are cases where you can plead guilty (if you have a good explanation), and the fine or charges can be reduced. However you will still likely have a mark on your driving record, and an upcoming rate hike on your insurance. Unless you are confident of a reduction in penalties with a guilty plea, you will want to plead not guilty.
Be Prepared to Defend Yourself — Get a Lawyer…. Do your homework! Learn the wording of the law you were charged under. You can dispute what the officer says. Consider where the officer was when he saw you committing the alleged offense. Did he/she have a clear view? Policeman are busy, and are often times unable to remember the fine details of every incident. Depending on the severity of the charges, it may warrant getting a lawyer. If the hit on your driving record (maybe you have had several recent tickets), and the hike in insurance rates have the potential to cost you a ton, it might justify hiring a lawyer. I’d rather give a lawyer a few hundred bucks than have to pay higher insurance rates for a year, and worry about a license suspension due to points. Whatever way you go, be prepared. Show up in court with several valid reasons why you were driving in that manner at the time.
Request Discovery…. Request a copy of the officer’s notes in advance of the court hearing date. You are entitled to discovery by law. The state must present you with all the documentation they will be using against you in court. This is exactly why you do not want to ever admit any guilt at the scene, or say anything more than needed. Go to your hearing already knowing what evidence the state will be presenting against you. You can’t properly defend yourself without this information!
Be Armed to the Teeth…. In addition to getting a copy of the officers documentation, bring any photos, diagrams, or anything relevant to your argument that will help to state your case to the judge. If you hire a lawyer, make sure he/she obtains all the important information needed to win your case. Most people who do fight traffic violations don’t show up prepared. If nothing else, it will make an important impression on the judge. You can make yourself look mighty good if you show up prepared. Catch them off guard!
Getting pulled over by a police officer is likely to happen to all of us one day or another. If and when it does happen, be prepared when you are pulled over by the police!