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When Being Pulled Over

Law enforcement - NHTSA

You might have heard it all before, but it is all worth repeating. Being pulled over fills many drivers with disbelief. “What did I do wrong now?” most of us wonder.

It is important to remember that the way you react in the next few minutes may affect whether or not you receive a ticket.

If you get pulled over, here is what you should do (and not do):

  • Acknowledge the present of the officer by turning on your turn signal

  • Pull safely to the side of the roadway.

  • Turn off the engine, roll down your window all the way and place your hands in clear view on the steering wheel.

  • Stay in your car.

  • Do not start looking for driver’s license, insurance cards or registration until directed to do so. It is important that you do not give any cause for alarm.

  • Cooperate and be polite. It is acceptable to say “Yes, officer” or “No, officer” to everything. Honesty is usually a good policy, but be careful with what you say. Do not try to explain or argue. You are innocent until proven guilty.

  • Make sure you understand exactly why you were pulled over, you might need to record relevant details, such as traffic and road conditions, weather, time of day, position on the road (like which lane you were driving in), questions asked, and any other circumstances.

  • If the officer asks you to sign a ticket, do so. Signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt.

  • Get your day in court. Your ticket may include a court date, or you may need to request a trial. Paying a fine is an admission of guilt. You do not want to do that unless you know exactly what the cost of conviction will be, including the fine, jail or community service, higher insurance premiums, and points on your driving record.

  • Always get an attorney for more serious violations, such as a DUI or a situation where someone was injured.

  • If you go to court, plead not guilty. Appear polite and professional. Just showing up may result in a dismissal if the police officer fails to show up. There is also a chance the officer does not remember all the details and cannot prove that you are guilty.

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