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How To Survive A Traffic Stop




How To Manage


Traffic Stop

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Un-Dia-Sin-Fronteras, Tim PaynterUh oh…Red lights in the rear view mirror!  You are getting pulled over!  What should you do?


Pull over!  Sure, but what then?


Any time you get pulled over you should assume you might be arrested.  Therefore, PULL OVER ONTO PRIVATE PROPERTY IF YOU CAN!  That means, turn into a super market or retail store where you can part on private property.  If the officer must arrest you, and you have been well behaved, he may not tow your car if you are legaly parked!


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A lot of surviving a traffic stop is attitude.  Don’t be angry at the officer.  Fish swim, ducks fly and police officers give tickets and arrest people.  It is the nature of the beast.  If you are really well behaved, you will get through most stops as lightly as is possible.


The reason you put your hands on the wheel is to assure the officer you are cooperating.  A cooperative motorist gets farther than a belligerent one does in most cases.  You are also assuring the officer you have no weapons and you do not pose a threat to his life.  Some motorists do pose a threat.

  • Put your hands on the wheel
  • Don’t make any fast moves
  • If your documents are in the glove box advise the officer you need to go into the glove box.  He won’t think you are pulling a weapon if you explain your moves in advance.
  • Turn on the dome light if it is after dark.

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By now you are parked in a safe place on private property instead of a roadway.  You have rolled down your window enough to hear what the officer has to say.  Your hands are on the wheel and you are sitting in a relaxed state.  Now it is time to produce documents.

  • Have your license, insurance and registration ready.
  • If you don’t have a license, produce your insurance.  Sometimes that is enough to win you a warning or a lighter charge.
  • The officer will pick up on your hands on the wheel right away.  They are trained to spot motorists who know how to manage traffic stops.  Most officers will be grateful for your cooperation.

Usually, the officer begins by asking questions.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

“Have you been drinking?”

“Are you here illegally?”

These are all investigative questions which you should be careful about answering.  All of the questions are designed for you to admit guilt.  At this point, you must judge the attitude of the officer.  If he is hostile towards you, then it is generally best to clam up right away.  You are probably getting the treatment, whether that be a ticket or an arrest.  There is no point in convicting yourself at the same time.

One of the best responses to all of these questions is to ask the officer a question in return.

“Can you tell me why you stopped me?”  This is not an admission and if you ask with a sincere tone, you will likely throw the officer off of his investigative quest.  You are now playing a cat and mouse game with the officer, and he is playing one with you!  You must appear cooperative, but you should not answer any of those incriminating questions.

If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, you must obey his command.  You should be cooperative but continue to ask questions.  You should also presume you are going to the pokey.  Now is a great time to exercise your right to remain silent, except the occasional question.  Don’t try to talk your way out of a situation.  It only gets you in deeper trouble.

“Why was I stopped?”

If the officer asks to search your vehicle you can deny him that search.  Rest assured, if you have items in the vehicle that might be better had they been left somewhere else, granting the officer the right to search is usually a bad idea.  If the officer insists on searching the vehicle, then let him have his way, do not resist.  But don’t give him permission, either.  If the officer searches the vehicle without your permission and without a warrant in the field, the evidence will likely be thrown out.  If they tow the vehicle, however, most states have upheld an “inventory search” even if the agency does not have a warrant.

  • You can refuse to allow a search of your vehicle without a warrant.  Assume if you put the officer to that much trouble, he is going to arrest you if he can.  Use your right to remain silent!
  • If the officer searches your vehicle without permission, the evidence can often be excluded at trial.
  • If the vehicle is towed, many jurisdictions allow an “Inventory search” which does not require a warrant.
  • If you have something in the car you don’t want to be discovered, don’t grant the officer permission to search.


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The decision to cooperate or not cooperate is always a hard one to make.  This is where guides are ineffective because you must use your own judgment.  No one can tell you how to best handle the situation.  In short, you should know and understand your rights against illegal searches and seizures while applying a wheel barrow of common sense in dealing with the officer at the scene.

If you are under the influence of medication, alcohol or other substances, in most states you are not required to “do the walk”.  Sometimes the officer will challenge you to do a roadside test for him just to “prove you are not under the influence”.  Don’t do it!  Passing the road side test can be difficult for a person who is cold sober, much less someone under the influence.  Instead, tell the officer no one passes such tests.  If the officer insists, presume you are going to be arrested no matter what you do.  Just say no to the roadside test if your state law permits it.

At this point, the officer will either back down or place you under arrest.  If he chooses the arrest route, don’t resist.  You must go along for the ride.  Wrong doing and abuse can be discussed with the judge.

In most cases, if you assume a positive attitude, demonstrate you are no threat to the officer, produce as much ID as you can including insurance, you are going home with a warning or a ticket.

If it is your lucky day to get free room and board at the cross bar motel, at the very least, you will not have given up much if you take this advice.  It is the obligation of the state to prove you guilty.  Until then, you are presumed innocent.


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Posted July 16th, 2011.

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