Here are 10 rules to follow when you see flashing lights in your rear view mirror.

Ten: Don’t Ignore the Cop

If you’ve just passed through what you believe to have been a section of road that a station officer was measuring traffic speed with a radar gun, wave to the officer or somehow acknowledge you see him. Cops tell us that it’s an acknowledgement that you see them there and recognize that you need to lower your speed may very well cause them to look for another speeder to ticket.

Nine: Don’t Select A Dangerous Spot to Pull Over

There’s enough tension in the cop’s mind when they pull over a driver. Don’t add to their anxiety by stopping around a blind curve, a narrow shoulder, or over a water hole if you can help it. Make sure there is plenty of room between your car and the road surface for the officer to stand safely. There are two really good reasons you want a traffic stop to go as quickly, smoothly and unremarkably as possible, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Eight:  Don’t Be Memorable

Try to be as inconspicuous and compliant as possible.You want the stop to go even better than routine. Don’t make a joke with the cop, ask if he’s related to someone else you know who has the same last name (unless you’re 100% certain it’s your friend’s cousin), don’t ask what you were stopped for and for goodness sake don’t argue with the officer (that includes wanting to inspect his radar gun). The goal is to create a situation where if the cop saw you in a 7-Eleven 10 miles down the road he wouldn’t even recognize you.

Seven: Don’t Do Anything Prior to the Cop Coming to Your Window

This includes getting out of the car (very bad, and you may have a gun drawn on you!), starting to rummage through your glove compartment for your registration and insurance card, digging through your purse or wallet for your driver’s license. All of these actions make the hair stand up on the back of the neck of a cop because, through the sliver of a view they have of you through your back window, all those actions could also look like you’re going for a gun.

Six: Don’t Take Off Your Seatbelt

This has happened to many of my clients. Pulled over for speed, they took off their belt as soon as stopped and shut off the engine. After running all his checks, the cop came back with a ticket for speed AND for not wearing a seat belt. Trying to explain will be to no avail once the cop has taken the time to full out an entire ticket. It’s easier just to keep your belt on unless you take it off in front of the cop.

Five: Don’t Talk!

The police officer might start asking you the sort of question whose lack of a definite answer could imply guilt, like, “Do you know why I stopped you?” Or, he or she might ask, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Your answers, if any, should be non-committal and brief, like a simple “No” to the first question or a very confident, “Yes, I do,” to the second. If the officer then tells you how fast he or she thinks you were going or what he or she thinks you did, don’t argue. Remember, the goal is to be as forgettable as possible and not incriminate yourself.

Four: Don’t Make Statements That Can Be Used Against You In Court

Police officers have been trained to solicit an admission of guilt. Read that line again. The process isn’t just to stop you and give you a ticket, but also document everything you say. Also assume, YOU ARE ALSO BEING AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDED.  In essence, you’re already on the witness stand. Questions like “do you know how fast you were going?” aren’t just idle chitchat. If you say “no” the officer can claim in court that you were being negligent by not knowing the speed limit. If you say “yes” you’ve all but admitted to speeding, which drastically decreases the number of ways you can defend yourself. Never admit to doing anything wrong at all but at the same time, never admit ignorance. Instead, give a noncommittal answer, like, “I see,” or no answer at all. Silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you in court.

Three:  Don’t Make It Worse

The interview with traffic cops that we researched found that across the board, the officer has pretty much made his or her decision as to whether to write you a ticket as they approach your car. If they’re going to write you a ticket, there’s not much more you can do, other than follow the advice on these pages. If, however, you’re one of the lucky ones the cop had decided to just give a warning, don’t screw it up. This is not the time to be difficult, uncooperative or rude, as the copy will change his or her mind right on the spot, and you would have never even know that until you opened your mouth, it was your lucky day

Two: Don’t Be Shy To Ask For A Warning

This is always a long shot, but if respectful and not too far over the speed limit, the cop may relent.  You do have to have some general knowledge of the police force with which you’re dealing. I’ve never heard of the Ohio Highway Patrol just handing out a warning when a ticket could be written. Many places, especially small municipal police departments, rely upon the revenue stream that tickets generate. Just be polite and respectful in your request and accept the officer’s negative response with grace.

One: Don’t Just Drive Off With Ticket In Hand

Just as the officer sits in his or her cruiser and makes notes about your mutual encounter, so should you. Write down what the officer said and what you said. Did anything unusual happen? What were the weather conditions and time of day? See if you can spot a mile marker or crossroad so you can identify where the officer was parked when you were zapped with radar.  Do it during the down time, outside of the cop's view, when your ticket is being written.  Whatever notes you write immediately after being handed in court have the same weight as what the officer wrote, as long as they are true, accurate, and made on a timely basis.  Seemingly innocuous facts you recall may be relevant to your attorney, such as those dealing with jurisdiction.  Otherwise, weeks in the future, you’ll be facing that officer again, this time in court, him or her reading from their notes and you only having your memory to rely upon. Whose testimony do you think the judge is going to favor?

Adam Lee Nemann
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Trial and Defense Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University, founder of Nemann Law Offices
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