Phoenix, AZ—You’ve been stopped by police while driving, how do you respond? There is no reason to make this a negative, life changing event.
You may be in for some heavy fines or perhaps an only educational encounter. Your behavior may well determine your fate. Never assume this will be a an unhappy event.
Make no mistake, you’ve got few rights and the police are in charge. Aside from traffic citations you could be publicly humiliated, injured, jailed and see your car towed.
When you’re in court judges and juries will assume the cop is telling the truth and if your story is different that you’re lying. That’s the way it is, unless of course a video exists.
When you become aware that the police are stopping you, yield immediately. Pull over and try to keep in mind the officer’s safety so he is not endangered as they get out to approach you on foot. At night, turn on your interior lights.
Keep your hands in sight and avoid quickly reaching into the glove compartments, pockets or purses. Wait until the officer is at your door and tell him what you’re attempting to retrieve.
When the officer approaches you, he’s going to issue requests, orders or commands. Try to smile and greet the officer pleasantly. "Good evening officer, how are you tonight?", will go a long way.
The officer will probably just ask you for your license, registration and insurance paperwork. Keeping your registration and insurance paperwork on your sun visor will prevent unnecessary fumbling through your glove compartment.
The officer will tell you the infraction he’s stopping you for. You are free to tell him if you disagree and that you’ make every effort to drive carefully. Don’t try and hold court on the street.
You may suggest that because of current traffic conditions that your alleged infraction was not a hazard to you or anyone else. That may work for the "Hollywood stop" at a stop sign where the visibility is not obstructed and the traffic is very light.
What you say can and will be used against you. So the less said about your violation the better.
If you manage to stay pleasant you may get a simple warning. If you get a citation you can feel out the officer about what he thinks your chances in court might be.
Officers generally will make notes about the stop on his paper copy of the citation. They may write nothing or if you are a pain in their ass they will write a Great Western Novel about you with lots of details.
The pleasant or uneventful stops are the ones that officers will be inclined to not remember. The stops where people play the race card, threaten the officer’s job or make nasty comments will always bring bad Karma.
Cases tried in Traffic Court are much more easily won if the accused violators exercised good behavior.
Many people somehow believe that pleading Not Guilty is a denial of the offense and somehow Perjury. The Not Guilty plea is only asking the court to require the cop to prove your guilt. That is not always a slam-dunk especially if the officer can’t remember details of the stop.
Driving While Impaired?
In the 1970’s cops did all they could to avoid arresting drunk drivers. Nobody really cared back then and the time such cases tied up officers, was considered a poor use of time and resources.
That all changed in the 1980s through today. Officers are rewarded with good efficiency ratings for making these arrests today.
If the officer thinks you may have been drinking, he may ask you to step out of the car. He may ask you to perform a field sobriety test. I would suggest a polite refusal here. I will never play “Simon Sez” with a cop!
You have a right to refuse this test and you may suggest that your feet hurt and you may not be at your best. Avoiding public humiliation is another reason to refuse. No officer is going to punish you for refusing Simon Sez.
Taking a Breathalyzer test is absolutely mandatory or you will lose your license in every state of the union if you refuse. You will also not have any evidence that you’re not impaired.
If you blow below a .08 reading you may still be cited. If you’re cited for impaired driving immediately go to a hospital and request a BAC test to counter the less accurate Breathalyzer test.
Be polite and friendly to the hospital staff because you may need their help.
Cops are ordinary people and are sensitive to unfriendly encounters like all of us. They also respond well to kindness and people that behave well under difficult conditions. If you’re cited be sure to thank the cop for doing his job. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by being nice.
As for racial issues White cops like me are pleasantly surprised whenever African-Americans or Hispanics are friendly and nice. Playing the race card is never helpful and is always counterproductive.
Concealed Weapons Permits:
Immediately informing the officer you have a permit and a concealed weapon is both helpful and smart. If the officer wants to disarm you, let it happen. Your weapon will be returned when the stop is over.
Having a valid concealed weapon permit has real advantages. Your permit is solid evidence that you’re law-abiding and respectful of the law. Your permit is a badge of good citizenship.
If you follow this advice you will find that you pay fewer fines and avoid regrettable encounters. You may have made a friend out of that cop that pulled you over.