THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU ARE PULLED OVER BY POLICE
Many of my clients have asked me over the years what they should do when they are pulled over in their vehicles by law enforcement. Here are a few tips that I provide:
1. Don’t panic. Being pulled over on the side of roadway by a police officer for a traffic ticket can be stressful enough. Motorists shouldn’t worsen a situation by panicking. While traffic tickets and the potential results to your license and insurance rates is a very serious business, most routine traffic stops are just that—routine. Keep a calm, clear head.
2. Do not admit guilt or fault. We all have probably heard that first question that officers ask you as they approach your vehicle. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Officers know why they pulled you over and are not asking that question hoping that you will remind them. Officers have been trained to ask that question in the hopes that motorists will make statements admitting guilt or fault. Those statements often appear on the ticketing officer’s supporting deposition as required by the New York Criminal Procedure Law. Politely decline to answer that question or any similar question.
3. Be polite. Always remember the golden rule, treat others as you wish to be treated. Yelling, screaming and being belligerent toward a police officer is almost a guaranteed way to insure that the officer will issue you a traffic ticket. On the other hand, being polite and curteous to an officer will not affect your case in court and might even lead the officer to let you off with just a warning.
4. Do not argue. Save the arguments for court, even when the officers are wrong. Police officers are human and often make mistakes in traffic cases. However, arguing with the officer on the side of the road will almost never help out your immediate situation and will likely make matters worse (see #3 above). There is a proper time and place for disputing the officer’s allegations – while the officer is writing your traffic ticket is certainly not the proper time and place.
5. Be cooperative. As long as there is a legal basis for the traffic stop, a police officer can ask you for your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration documents. Not only can they ask you for these documents, the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that you carry these documents while driving (not to mention that you can be issued traffic citations for failure to produce these documents). Again, being uncooperative or argumentative with the officer at the scene of the traffic stop will do nothing to help your case.
6. Make sure all of your document are up to date. Driving with a suspended license, insurance lapses and operating an unregistered vehicle can all lead to costly traffic violations and in some cases, criminal charges. Many police vehicles are now outfitted with equipment that automatically scans license plates and provides officers with information on whether the vehicle is insured and registered. Take the time to be certain that your insurance is paid, your vehicle is registered and you properly respond to any traffic tickets and pay any associated fines and DMV fees.
7. Do not admit guilt. This is so important I feel that it bears repeating. See #2 above.
8. CALL A LAWYER. Traffic tickets can be costly. Fines, court costs, DMV penalties and increased insurance rates can run into the hundreds or thousand of dollars. Your driver’s license could even be in jeopardy. By hiring a lawyer, many motorists don’t even have to appear in Court. A lawyer can fight for you, possibly get tickets dismissed or negotiate reductions for you. You will not have to miss time from work, travel great distances to Court or run the risk of having your license suspended. A few hundred dollars to hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket may seem like a lot but it is often a wise investment. Call my office or check out my website for more information.
Lorenzo Napolitano, Esq.