The most important thing to remember during a traffic stop is to remain calm. It is a stressful situation, even when you have done nothing wrong.
What you do when law enforcement pulls you over can affect the outcome of the situation, both immediately and later if you choose to dispute a charge.
What to do first
When you see the flashing lights, these should be your first actions:
- Pull over safely as soon as possible while obeying traffic laws
- Put the car in park and turn it off
- Open your window at least part of the way and turn on an interior light if it is dark outside
- Put your hands on the steering wheel so they are visible to an approaching officer
- When asked, provide your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance
Make it clear to the officer that you intend to comply with all requests and that you understand he or she is in control.
What to remember during the stop
Here are suggestions for a smooth encounter:
- Do not say more than you need to
- Keep your hands visible, only reach for items when asked to do so
- Avoid sudden movements
- Be polite and respectful, even if the officer is not
- Only get out of the vehicle if asked to do so
If an officer issues you a citation, do not argue, as you will gain nothing. Record the officer’s name and badge number, and after the encounter, review the area to check for proof that may help you dispute the charge, such as an obstructed view or lack of signage.
In the event that the officer violates your rights or causes you harm, document injuries and seek medical attention if needed. You have the right to file a complaint.