I: Practices for Traffic Law Enforcement Officers
Suspicious or Felonious Stops
II: Practices for Drivers
Stops Are Dangerous
Can You Do?
What Can You Do?
Whether you are stopped by a state highway patrol
or state police trooper, a county sheriff deputy, or a local police officer,
under our laws and ordinances, you are expected to cooperate. Just as
the officer strives to maintain a level of professionalism during the
traffic stop, drivers and other occupants can do their part, too, by following
these simple guidelines.
- Carry proper identification: a valid driverís
license, proof of vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
- When being signaled by an officer to stop, look
for the nearest place to position your vehicle as far out of the lane
of traffic as possible. Generally pull off to the right side of the
roadway or to where the shoulder is wider, unless otherwise directed.
Signal your move to the side of the roadway, stop, then turn on your
- Never attempt to outrun the patrol vehicle or
pretend not to see the lights or hear the siren.
- Stay in your vehicle. If you are asked to exit
the vehicle, do it slowly.
- Remain calm. If there are passengers, also ask
them to remain quiet and cooperative with all reasonable requests. Do
not let anyone in your vehicle make threatening statements or gestures
to the officers.
- Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer
has seen you wearing it.
- Avoid automatically thinking that this stop was
based on race, gender, religion, national or ethnic origin. Wait for
the officerís explanation. Officers are trained to know that this type
of traffic stop violates federal civil rights laws.
- Turn on the interior lights when the stop occurs
during darkness so the officer can easily see that all is in order.
- Understand that officer will turn on the patrol
carís headlights and spotlights during darkness for safety purposes.
It helps illuminate the interior of your car.
- Understand the reason that there are times when
officers have to speak loudly because they are near traffic and other
noisy conditions. They are not trying to intimidate you.
- Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering
wheel. Ask your passengers to place their hands in plain view such as
on their laps.
- Do not duck down or make sudden movements, especially
toward the floorboard, rear seat, or passenger side of the vehicle.
The officer may interpret these movements as an attempt to hide illegal
goods or to obtain a weapon.
- Turn off your engine. Also, if in use, turn off
your cell telephone and radio to facilitate communications.
- Roll down your window all the way so you and the
officer can communicate.
- Ask for identification if the officer is not in
uniform or does not have a marked patrol vehicle.
- Remember the name of the officer.
- Remember, the first words spoken by you (and the
officer) may very well determine the tone of the interaction during
the traffic stop.
- Do not immediately reach into your glove box,
console pocket or backseat. Wait for the officer to request your license,
registration and proof of insurance. If the documents are out of reach,
tell the officer where they are and reach for them slowly. Otherwise,
keep your hands on the steering wheel.
- Give the officer a chance to explain the violation.
Most officers are trained to ask for identification first before providing
an explanation of the stop.
- Answer the officerís questions to the best of
- If the charge or citation is not clear, ask for
an explanation in a respectful manner.
- There is no need to apologize over or to elaborate
on the offense, in effect, to testify against yourself. Simply be civil
and polite. If there are any special circumstances surrounding the incident,
provide a straight, honest and up-front explanation.
- Avoid provoking the officer or showing off in
front of other occupants. Do not interfere with the questioning or the
arresting of other occupants. Comply with the officer first and then,
if needed, seek an explanation.
- Do not argue with the officer at the roadside.
If you disagree with the citation or the officerís actions, discuss
it later with the law enforcement agency or the judge.
- Let the officer know if you are carrying a properly
registered weapon. In these cases, the officer may have a special procedure
that, for example, may require you to identify the location of the weapon,
to state if the weapon is loaded, to step out of the vehicle, etc. Also,
the officer may ask for your permit number to radio in a check and compare
it to the serial number on the weapon. In some states, weapons are registered
for specific purposes such as hunting and target practice. So the officer
may be required to ask you questions about your activities.
- Report the incident to the officerís agency, if
you feel the officer has acted irresponsibly. Document the officerís
misconduct in a written statement and submit it within a few days after
the incident. Call the agency and follow their procedure. Also, since
traffic enforcement procedures may vary from state to state, consult
an attorney or law enforcement agency representative who are familiar
with laws and agency policies.
- If you receive a citation, in most states you
will be asked to sign it. This is not an admission of guilt. It only
means that you received the citation. Any refusal to sign the citation
could result in an arrest or being taken to the station to post collateral
and pay for the offense.
- Donít be surprised if another patrol car appears.
Since many law enforcement agencies use
one-person patrol cars, this is done to assure the officerís safety.
- Do not resist a pat down
search. This will be done only if the officer has a reasonable
suspicion that you may be carrying an illegal weapon.
- Be flexible. There are many issues of safety and
officer concerns that may be unique to your traffic stop. No traffic
stop is routine. Cooperate with the officer and follow instructions.
- Practice the golden rule.
Treat the officer like you would want to be treated.
- Treat law enforcement officers with respect. In
fact, say hello to officers next
time you see one around your community. Write the agency when an officer
is exceptionally kind and helpful.
- Teach your children to respect and to talk to
law enforcement officers when they meet them in the community, schools,
etc. Help them realize that officers serve and protect everyone in the
community. We must continue to pass-on, from generation to generation,
respect for professional law enforcement officers.