Traffic Stops – FAQs

Often, a person that has been stopped by a law enforcement officer forgets that the officer is under a unique and challenging set of circumstances. They are trying to enforce the law while at the same time, attempting to ensure your safety as well as the safety of those around you.

When stopped by a law enforcement officer, the average citizen may become angry, fearful or nervous. Although this may be a normal reaction for that particular person given the circumstances, the officer doesn’t know that. The officer’s training and experience teaches them to look for and expect these same emotions from criminals they confront. These emotions are often indications of criminal activity and may be precursors to flight from, or assault on, the officer.

If you are stopped and issued a citation, understand that it is part of the officer’s job and not one that they enjoy. Officers have a duty to regulate traffic and enforce the law. In addition, when issuing tickets, officers are often responding to complaints made by your fellow citizens and are following orders to address those complaints. The most important fact to remember is that officers are human too. Treat them as you wish to be treated.

1. Do Not make sudden movements (for your wallet, into your coat, toward your waistband, etc.) until you have informed the officer of your intention to do so and the officer has given approval.
2. Do Not carry weapons (real or otherwise, unless legally allowed to do so) or even joke about having a weapon in your possession.
3. Do Not touch the officer or invade his or her personal “safety” space (3 feet rule).
4. Do Not be argumentative – being uncooperative will only prolong your encounter.
5. Do Not immediately demand an explanation – comply first, then seek an explanation from the officer or the officer’s supervisor.

1. Pull over to the right immediately upon seeing the law enforcement emergency lights.
2. Remain in your vehicle while the officer approaches.
3. Turn on your interior light if stopped at night.
4. Keep your hands in sight – preferably on the steering wheel where the approaching officer can easily see them.
5. If you have a gun or other weapon on your person or in your vehicle, inform the officer where it is. Reach for the weapon only after the officer instructs you how.  He first may ask for your CCW permit or police ID/Badge.
6 Give your license, registration and proof of insurance after the officer asks to do so.
7. If you wish to inquire as to why you were stopped or offer an explanation, do so before the officer returns to his or her vehicle.
8. Do not touch, threaten or act in a disorderly manner toward a law enforcement officer. This conduct could result in additional charges or arrest.
9. If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, do so without any sudden or threatening movements.
10. Give the officer at least three feet of professional space to do his or her job.
11. Remain in your vehicle at all times unless told otherwise.

Contrary to popular belief, in general law enforcement officers do not have quotas. Whether they write you a ticket or give you a warning is entirely up to their individual discretion.

If an officer should approach you on the street – it is not because he or she has any interest in upsetting you. If you are detained, keep in mind there is always a reason for which you are most likely unaware. The most common reasons that cause an officer to stop a civilian are as follows:

1. You might be one of only a few people walking in the vicinity of a crime that has recently occurred.
2. Your clothing might be similar or identical to that worn by the perpetrator of a crime.
3. Someone may have called the law enforcement agency complaining about your presence or that you looked “suspicious.”
4. Someone may have pointed you out to the officer.
5. You might be acting in a manner that the officer considers “suspicious” and you act even more suspicious after realizing that the officer is observing you.

The law enforcement officer does not wish to detain you any longer than necessary. As soon as the officer finds that you are not the suspect, he or she will often apologize for the inconvenience and quickly resume the search elsewhere.


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