Op-Ed: What To Do & What Not To Do When Getting Pulled Over

By S.E. for TLS. Everyone hates getting pulled over. Even if you know you did something to deserve it, it’s not a pleasant feeling, but how the traffic stop goes is much up to you. In this article, I’ll give you a few tips of what to do and what not to do when getting pulled over, and perhaps maybe even spare you a ticket.

As someone who deals with Law Enforcement officials on a daily basis, I’ll be offering you several tips from my experiences and which I’ve heard from officers over the years.

1) If you see lights behind you, assume it’s either a cop trying to pass you, or you are being pulled over. What you should immediately do, is slow down and signal that you are pulling over. (Usually it’s to the right, since officials will normally pass on the left).

Now what’s if it’s at night, and you’re unsure if the car behind you trying to pull you over, is really a cop? In such a case, the first thing you should do, is put your hazard lights on and slow down, indicating to the officer that you are not attempting to flee. Next, call your local police headquarters and ask to verify that you are being pulled over by a real cop.  

2) If you are being pulled over, come to a complete stop and put your vehicle in park.

Under no circumstances should you remove yourself from the vehicle, especially at night. Always remain seated and wait for the officer to approach your window (usually about 1-2 minutes). Getting out of a vehicle can be interperated to a cop to mean that you are armed and could possibly open fire on an officer as he or she exits her vehicle. It’s a big no-no and you are putting the officer on edge even before he or she even reached your car window.

3) Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. As it is, a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous things a cop does, so making an officer more nervous, will not sit well with the officer.

4) Don’t make any sudden moves. This is not to be taken lightly, or it can result in a cop getting defensive, which can include getting a gun pointed in your face. If an officer feels threatened in the least bit, they will defend themselves immediately, as they are trained to do in the academy. Especially since the murder of Officer Matlosz, officers will not take chances if they feel someone may be attempting to reach for something. A simple search online will show you the dangers cops face when stopping vehicles. In many cases, they are criminals which will do anything to avoid going to jail, even if it means killing the officer.

5) In many cases, especially in Lakewood, you may notice a second patrol car pulling up when you get pulled over. This does not mean you’re a criminal, but just means the officers are looking out for their brothers in blue and backing them up until the first officer breaks them off.

6) In most cases, the officer will ask you, “Do you know why I stopped you”?

Now, let me give you a scenario of how this stop can go from here.

A) A true story: A Lakewood officer releated to me how he pulled over a woman speeding well over the speed limit. When he stopped her and asked her why she was speeding, instead of saying “EXCUSE ME OFFICER, BUT I WAS GOING THE LIMIT”, the lady calmly explained to the cop that she was so excited to finally get home after a long days work and to see her kids, that she must have not realized she was going over the speed limit. The officer, understanding, like most officers in Lakewood are, let her off with just a warning. So A), she didn’t lie to the officer or try to contradict what the officer was saying, and B), she spoke with respect.

B) Cops – like most people – do not like being called a liar, contradicted or disrespected. The difference is, you’re at the officer’s mercy. So if you start contradicting the cop or start lying to get yourself out of a ticket, chances are YOU WILL GET A SUMMONS. Remember, it’s your word against theirs. Most cops can tell you’re lying and will not fall for your stories. They’ve heard most of them in the books. So be honest, sincere and respectful.

7) Speak with respect. Again, as earlier mentioned, cops will in the most part show you respect if you show them your respect. There’s always those one or two cops who are having a bad day and can sometimes ‘let it out’ on you, but for the most part, the above suggestion works.

8 ) License & Registration. In most situations, the officer will ask you for your license and regsitration information. This does not mean you’re getting a summons. It merely means the officer will go back to his or her patrol car and run your information in the system for any history and to ensure your paper work is valid. So give him your papers (and if you’re lucky enough to have a courtesy card of some sort, hand that over too), and wait.

9) If you’ve followed all of the above tips, there’s a good chance the officer will be back at your car window in about 2-3 minutes and give you a break. If you’re lucky, you will hear, “I’ll give you a warning this time – drive safely”. However, if you do receive a summons, read on.

10) If the officer walks back to your window and hands you a summons, don’t lose yourself and begin cursing at him or her or begin ‘giving attitude’. In many situations, the officers will note your attitiude inside the report and your chances of getting your ticket lowered by the prosecutor or attorney in court, are greatly reduced.

I hope these tips have helped you for the next time you’re stopped by police. Remember, officers are not out to get you, but to protect the other drivers and pedestrians on the road and to make the town a safer place for all.

Drive safe.

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  1. “they can make a note of attitude. Thats why the justice system is corrupt”
    Really , here we go agin the whole world is out to get me syndrome!!!

  2. nothing overly intelligent there.

    i would like to see an article from “smarty pants” who interacts with law enforcement all the time.

    what one does when the above was followed the officer handed you a fat ticket without any converstion or exchange of words whatsoever! period nada none.

    just a fat ticket for getting caught in a trap

    like at vine and tower spruce area wide roads no traffic and few signs about it being 25 zone

    now big boy explain what to do.

  3. I agree with all of this except #6. You should not lie to a cop or disrespect him, but you should not admit fault. If you admit you are speeding, and the cop isn’t wooed by your honesty, you have just plead guilty and have almost a zero chance of disputing the ticket in court.

  4. If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime . If you break the lae,speeding, red light, or what ever you deserve the ticket ,the laws are there for your protection and your family,if they let you off with a warning consider your self lucky
    To number four its 25 for a reason and they are ther to inforce it you call it a trap they call it upholding the law
    And yes before you ask me I have gotten more then my share of tickets I have learned to slow down and follow the rules .
    When I don’t and get stopped I man up and take my medicine ,do the same

  5. There will be times when no matter how polite you are you will be getting a summons due to the severity of what you did. A warning might not be in order unless there is a true emergency in which case a ticket may be issued then dismissed in court with proof of the emergency. People don’t realize how dangerous it is to speed on residential streets. It only takes a second for a child to wander out. If someone is that distracted that they dont realize how fast they are going that definitely will not see the child in the street. Do you really want to live with the guilt that you killed someones child because you were 50mph on an 25mph street. Also you will probably be charged with a crime as well as the tickets. The crime may come with a mandatory minimum jail sentence which means that no matter what you will be going to prison for a few years. There are consequence to driving dangerously.

  6. There is a common misconception that a wide road means faster travel. It does NOT. There are plenty of wide roads in residential areas, where children there are many children around. Take Williams Street. It’s a nice wide road, and it’s 25 MPH. There are a LOT of children around playing, on their bikes. Pedestrians walking. School busses making frequent stops. Just because it’s wide does not give you the authority to speed down the block. If you get pulled over, you deserve EVERY penalty thrown your way. By speeding in such areas, you are putting many innocent children at risk. Stop being selfish, and drive the speed limit.

    Oh, and FYI giving the excuse that you didn’t know the speed limit is never going to hold up in court if you try to fight such a ticket. As a driver it’s YOUR responsibility to be aware of these things, not the cops.

  7. Don’t be any nicer, or meaner than you would, speaking to a common person you just met.
    Its just a typical business transaction. Keep it simple, don’t argue, don’t get smart. Why this is even a “story” is beyond me. We all learned this when we took the dmv test.

  8. i have only been driving for about 3 years now. i have never been pulled over. but that is my biggest fear. and because i know my self, i no i would start to cry right away lol! and i wouldnt want the cop to think anything, like im hiding something or anything like that! but when i do get pulled over (IF i ever get pulled over. lol) and i start to cry what do i do? lol

    i have a state trooper card that was given to me but its from 2010 so idk if i should still hand it over or not. i dont want the cop to think im trying to use it as a get away card. lol!

    but i think i could use some advice.

  9. “In such a case, the first thing you should do, is put your hazard lights on and slow down, indicating to the officer that you are not attempting to flee. Next, call your local police headquarters and ask to verify that you are being pulled over by a real cop.”

    R u serious ? U can get a fat ticket 4 that alone ! U r not allowed to talk on the cell phone while driving !!!!

  10. All the Lakewood cops i dealt with, were gentleman. I recently got stopped in lkwd (first time in 7 years) he spoke respectfully and it was appreciated.

  11. With Many years of road experience and dozens of tickets issued and hundreds of cars pulled over, I can say that the operators attitude is the number 1 thing that comes into factor. Let me explain.
    1) Violation takes place, officer makes a motor vehicle stop.
    a) If on a click it or ticket detail, very little discretion as this is strictly an enforcement detail. This is same for cell phone and drunk driving details.
    b) If on routine patrol, the officer then weighs the violation with:
    Attitude and behavior of operator. Seriousness of the offense. If all of drivers paperwork is in order, and car has valid inspection. even if you agree or disagree with why you were stopped, you still are in good shape here. Most officers will merely check your paperwork, run your plate, license, check insurance and inspection and let you go if all is well.
    2) If you have one or more issues, or ask 101 questions, debate, cry, keep trying to reason, explain, mock, tell us to go arrest real criminals that ticket is definitely coming.
    3) Believe me, there are tons of other things we would rather be doing than standing on the side of the road, cold, wet, hot, putting ourselves at more risk of getting run over or struck.
    4) Remember when you come into complain, the whole incident is on tape, video, and sometimes the violation is as well.

    In conclusion a good tv line is by Baretta, actor Robert Blake “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time” yeah . And he too got off for killing his wife.

    Ok folks, drive safe out there and its only a ticket, nothing personal.

  12. you forgot “turn on the interior light” when you stop and put your hands on the wheel. lets the cop see into the vehicle from a distance at night.

  13. This is so far fetched it is not even funny. If an officer had a bad night then he is more dangerous! I thought you are suppose to leave your problems at home and not bring them to work. So it comes down to the mood the officer is in? Nice policy!

  14. if the drivers of Lakewood would learn to stop at stop signs, stay of there phones, and obey the traffic laws this would also help in not getting pulled over.

  15. I got caught doing 80 on Route 9 in Howell. It was quite late at night and I was the only car around. I was 8 months pregnant and trying to get home. I told him so. He let me go. I think the fact that I had a clean record otherwise had something to do with it…

  16. If a driver is treated differently than any other motorist because he or she handed over a courtesy card because her husband is a police officer, or because he gave to a local officials reelection campaign or is related to a county or township figure I do not have respect for that officer. I have the utmost contempt and disdain. Don’t constatntly tell me the law is the law and must be followed and then selectively enforce the law when the driver running the red light is “special”. If the law is the law treat every driver the same. If not, don’t expect me to look at you with the respect you would otherwise deserve. I think anyone would be appalled if a defendant in court handed the judge a courtesy card and was let off the hook. The same should be true with regards to the law enforcement officers who are working for US. I would love to see legislation outlawing this type of pratice along with some sort of enforcement mechanism. If you want the publics respect carry out your duties with honor and integrity. And yes, I have been handed courtesy cards in the past and I declined to use them, so there are no “sour grapes” here.

  17. i agree we have to give all officers respect always they risk thier lives for us all day one thing i want to say is respect goes two ways just because an officer maybe having a bad day does not give him or her the right to come upon a vehicle and let his temper out they are profesionals yelling and screaming at people who dont disrespect them is wrong ive seen it done you can give someone a summons i they deserve it but be a mentch your badge makes you authority dont abuse it

  18. Here’s apet peeve of mine. The police officer is supposed to be a complaining witness but has effectively become the witness, prosecutor, and judge all in one. Let me give you an example: A few years ago I was pulled over by a rookie officer for illegal use of my high beams late at night. From a quick reading of the statute it was clear that I had not violated the statute. I could have taken it to trial nad would have won, but that would have involved two appearances and six hours or so of lost work costing me $300 to win the $50 ticket. I had no choice but to pay without contesting. In effect the officer pulling you over has the power to accuse and convict you simultaneously since the system effectively nakes it too costly to contest aticket for all but seniors or those making minimum wage. This gives the officer a tremendoes amount of power and is certainly not in keeping with the intent of our judicial system that one be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Imagine if the court imposed a $100 “defendant fee” -win or lose- to contest a $100 ticket. It’s pretty obvious that the court would be constructively denying the defendent the right to a fair trial. Yet this is what goes on every day when an officer issues a summons. Unless the municipal court is restructured to allow for a reasonably quick trial process, making it cost effective for a defendant to mount a defense, I do not call the current system justice being served.

  19. I have been driving for 52 years. The only time I was stopped by a policeman was 49 years ago. He said “Do you know what an amber light means?” I said “Yes officer, it means stop unless it is unsafe to do so. In my judgement, I would’ve ended up in the intersection so I did not stop.” He said “Have a good day.” I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles. No chargeable accidents and no moving violations. I take driving as a serious, dangerous event. Don’t break the law, stay alert for other drivers, check side and rearview mirrors often, avoid distractions, etc.

  20. and don’t tell the officer that you’re an uncle/cousin/brother/sister to Meir Lichtenstein or Menashe Miller. They have their ways of confirming 🙂

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