What Should I Do If Pulled Over?
First, make sure you pull over correctly.
The law requires you to pull over onto the right shoulder in response to a police officer's lights. Do not pull over on the left shoulder. If you do, expect that the police officer will order you to move your vehicle to the correct side. Also, expect the officer to give you a traffic ticket for pulling onto the wrong shoulder. Minimize danger to the police officer by pulling safely off the roadway as far as possible on the right shoulder.
Keep all of your necessary documents organized and available.
Everyone is nervous when pulled over by a police officer. It doesn't matter who you are. Keeping your license, registration, and proof of insurance where they are easily accessible helps alleviate some of the tension you may feel. Further, it helps your interaction with the officer go smoothly. An officer is more likely to cut you a break if you quickly provide all of the right documents.
It also follows: take the time to make sure you have all of the correct documents in your car. Have you renewed your driver's license? Are your vehicle tabs expired? Have you bothered to sign Vehicle Registration? Many people forget to. Last, do you have your insurance card, and is it expired?
Hundreds of "No Proof of Insurance" traffic tickets, if not thousands, are issued in Washington State each year simply because drivers forget to keep proof of insurance in their car. Mr. Sheehan knows this because he's handled hundreds of "No Insurance" violations for his clients over the course of his career. Save yourself the time of fighting an expensive "No Proof of Insurance" traffic ticket by making sure your insurance card is up to date and in your car.
Put the officer at ease.
An officer faces the potential of danger during every routine traffic stop. Do your part to make the officer feel safe. Keep your hands where they are visible. Don't make any strange or sudden movements. Don't reach for your documents until instructed to, and turn on your interior light at night so the officer can easily see what you are doing and that you do not have any weapons.
Be polite and respectful.
Generally speaking, police officers are regular people just doing their job. They know very little about you when they approach your vehicle, and their job is by nature high risk. Put the officer at ease by being polite. The more respect you show them, the better your interaction will be. Further, the more respect you demonstrate, the greater chance you have for getting a warning or a ticket written for a lesser infraction.
Even if you encounter a police officer who is treating you unkindly or with disrespect, the rules for you remain the same. It may not be easy, but you must maintain a polite demeanor so that the interaction can end quickly. Under no circumstances should you argue with the officer or ask to see a radar reading. Arguing with a police officer will not only get you nowhere, it can make things much worse.
The less you say, the better.
Do not try to talk your way out of a ticket. Do not plead your case. While being as polite and respectful as you can be, say as little as possible. Chances are, anything you say will be written by the officer in his police report. It may be offered as evidence against you in a Contested Hearing. Further, if you make an admission, it may limit what your traffic attorney can do with regard to your traffic ticket in court.
You do have a duty to identify yourself to the officer and provide your license, registration and proof of insurance. Beyond that, you do not have an obligation to say anything to a police officer. One of the first questions police officers ask is: "Do you know why I pulled you over? Or, "Do you know how fast you were going?" The best way to answer to that question, is to say, "I'm sorry officer, I don't know." You've been polite, you've answered the question, and you've said nothing incriminating. If the officer continues to question you, continue to answer the same way.
Do not make any admissions.
Under no circumstances should you tell a police officer what you thought you did wrong or how fast you were going. First of all, you don't know why the officer pulled you over. Even if you suspect you know what you did wrong, your statements are evidence that can be presented against you in court.
If you make admissions, an attorney can still fight your traffic ticket.
If you believe you've given an officer incriminating information against you (such as admitting to an officer that you were speeding), it is still worth hiring an attorney to fight your traffic ticket. Attorney Michael D. Sheehan is used to seeing traffic tickets containing incriminating statements made by his clients. He knows how to best deal with those statements, and how to get a traffic ticket dismissed despite them.