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police car at nightI schooled and trained to be a cop. As a matter of fact I spent a couple years certified as a humane officer, although I never took the job. Suffice it to say that I've talked with more cops than the average person has and I've probably known more cops than I really needed to. One of the things that I learned was that, given the right circumstances, almost every cop lets a speeding motorist "skate the rap" now and then.

There is a somewhat prescribed course of action which will help "put you in the drivers seat" when it comes to escaping the wrath of the ticket writing cop and the traffic court judge. The very first thing you must do is immediately accept that you have done wrong.

If a cop flags your plates and turns on those lovely colored strobes on top of his car, speeding or not, you're caught. They are right and you are wrong. Yeah it sucks, but that's life. Signal your departure from the traffic lane, ease to the shoulder nice and smooth, stop your car like a good citizen and shut off your engine.

Your next moves are the most important. If you proceed in a manner which recognizes and respects the importance and danger of a police officer's job, you will earn a bit of instant credibility in the eyes of the law. If you have sun glasses on, remove them and place them conspicuously on top of the dashboard. If you have music on, turn it off. Leave your seat belt buckled, or if you're not buckled, do it in a hurry. If the weather allows, roll your window all the way down and then place both hands on top of the steering wheel. Now, what you accomplished is to send a tremendously powerful message to that cop which will be received before you two ever meet eyes. You have stated that you are giving your full attention to the matter, you submit to the authority of the law, you accept full communication and you pose no threat. You have just reduced that cop's anxiety level by about 75%. Remember, happy cops generally write a bit fewer tickets.

Always address the officer as sir or ma'am. DO NOT go into explanations or denials. Offer your assistance and do as the officer says. When asked for license and registration, produce those as efficiently as possible. Stalling with your documentation will not gain you a thing.

If the officer asks if you knew you were speeding, admit that you thought you might have been going a little fast. State that you were paying attention to the flow of traffic and ask the officer to please tell you how bad your speed was. You have now given the officer a chance to verbally chastise you. Sometimes, if a cop can scold you and knows that you're paying attention, you will satisfy the officer's need to assert authority (that's their job, you know).

If at any point the officer seems willing to exchange banter and you're willing to take the risk, go for it. The longer it takes to start writing a ticket the less chance you'll get one. Police officers are people too, be polite, upbeat, friendly and interested. Ask the officer how their day is going. Ask if they've been giving out a lot of warnings. However, if your particular roadside visitor doesn't want small talk, don't push it. A cop's most dangerous position is when standing near your car door, don't stall them if they want to move from that position. Additionally,it may not be in your best interest to chat with a cop.

Be honest, subordinate, charming and grateful. Take the whole situation in stride. Whichever way it goes, your assignment through the entire process is to reduce stress for both yourself and the officer. If you wish to contest the matter, the place for that is in court with the assistance of trained legal guidance, not at the roadside. Please remember that you and the officer basically have the same goal. That goal is to get you home safely.

  • Gordy

    Man! Where was this article 2 weeks ago! Although...since I clocked in at 94 in a 70, I probably didn't have a shot anyway.

  • Rudko

    Along the same lines as keeping your hands on the steering wheel, when the cop asks you to get your license and registration, I will tell the officer what I am doing: "I have to get the registration from the glove box if that's ok." "My wallet is in my back pocket." and I usually don't move until the cop says ok.

    That lets them be the authority figure a little more and keeps them from worrying about whatever you are doing with your hands, which is a big concern for them.

  • Scott Elias

    Excellent post. I find it helpful on occasion to mention that I'm a high school assistant principal. Seems some cops have a bit of built-in respect for other public servants. The last guy said something along the lines of, "Wow - so you deal with the same kids we do but you don't get to carry a gun!"

    Nice guy. And he gave me an equipment violation ticket instead of 60 in a 45 so it wasn't all bad.


  • seanz0rz

    what is your advise on being pulled over on the freeway? should i pull off to surface streets if i am near an exit, or is that too threatening to the officer? i always worry about officers standing on the side of the freeway. ive seen too many get hit down here is southern california.

  • stephen

    I agree with your article.

    One point i do not fully agree with is...

    "If the officer asks if you knew you were speeding, admit that you thought you might have been going a little fast."

    My only problem with that statement is "admitting"; and it might just be my naive insecurities. But isn't part of the ticketing process marking whether the person in question admits guilt? and if said guilt is given (admitting) it makes the ticket much more difficult to fight in court. And thus, if you admit guilt, the cop is much more likely to give you a ticket, as it is one he or she is much less likely to address in court.


  • td

    I am a retired cop. While all of that is good advice, if I was going to make a car stop, 9 times out of 10 you would get a ticket. The motorist that is only going 5-10 mph over isn't going to get stopped anyway. We would stop only the most serious violators. No point in giving me a long sob story, you can just save that for the judge. Remember, it's nothing personal. You were just speeding on my beat and I have a job to do. By signing the citation you aren't admitting guilt but if you want to contest the ticket, then I'll see you in court and have a nice day...

  • bruce

    How about just driving sensibly, not speeding, running lights, driving aggressively?

    I may be out on a limb here though.. common sense doesn't prevail amongst auto-heads.

  • miklm

    stephen makes a good point, as you do not want to admit guilt for anything to an officer. If you DO receive a ticket, and then have the wherewithal to fight it in court, you do not want the officer to say "Well, he admitted he was speeding." Guilty. Case Closed.

    Be polite. "Yes, sir. I understand. How fast was I going officer?" But don't admit that you knew you were speeding. I don't really bother with the roadside chit-chat. When I get stopped, I usually get a ticket. I pretty much follow the guidelines of this article -- hands on the wheel, windows down, car off, music off, buckle up, tell the officer what you're going to do before moving, but if they've stopped you they're probably going to write you up. Where you have a chance is in court, when you can plead down the ticket with the judge. Ask for driving school, a reduced charge (perhaps a non-moving violation instead?) or dismissing the ticket on payment of court costs -- anything so the ticket doesn't go on your DMV record for insurance/points. You'll pay for it, but that's the price of speeding, and cheaper to pay a fine than pay increased rates for the next 3 years.

  • Mehool

    Everything in this blog post sits in stark contrast with the content of the page you linked to:

    they give exactly the opposite advice.

  • jax239

    That is hilarious! That blog should be titled things to do if you want to receive a ticket from a cop! Anyone who follows any of that advice will almost definitely get a ticket and more likely than not be convicted of the crime they were cited for.
    It's easily forgotten that cops are people too. It's hard for cops to write tickets to good people who make mistakes. It's easy for cops to write tickets to people who want to play games. They won't give it a second thought and will always be more prepared for those people who think they are going to win in court by following silly advice. In fact, they will tend to take better notes and always remember every detail of the violation when it comes time for court if that person chooses to plead not guilty.
    If one really wants to avoid a ticket, show a little respect for the law and the people who enforce it. Cops love to hear about personal responsibility without the blame game. Cops hear so many lies and excuses that it is refreshing to hear a good, honest citizen every now and then. Most cops are very understanding and can relate to routine traffic violations. -others are robots and it doesn't matter what you do or say cause you'll still get a ticket. -We can't do much about those sort of cops.
    We all know if we were speeding, so if we get caught, own up to it without all of the dramatics or excuses. You'll stand a much better chance of getting a warning versus playing the "I'm not going to admit to anything" game. Doing those sort of things makes it easier for the cop to go back to his car and write out a ticket. He/she isn't worried about going to court. That's part of the job. Cops almost always win their traffic court cases. If they didn't, they'd probably get fired because they would be doing something wrong if they were losing so many.

    If you actually do receive a ticket, here's the secret to winning in court should you choose to plead not guilty. DON'T DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF while dealing with the cop. Accept responsibility and accept the ticket and go on your way without playing games with the cop. He/she is less likely to remember you or the ticket months later and may be willing to agree to dismiss/reduce the ticket prior to trial. He/she may not even show up in court. There are a number of positive outcomes that could occur. But if you enter into that arena that cops like best which is someone off the beaten path and making their jobs harder by playing games, forget about it, they will be in court before you get there ready to testify. Don't play games. If you're wrong you're wrong.

    Whether you admit to something or not is irrelevant. The cop will testify as a witness. It will be your burden to disprove the cop in a court setting which will often come down to saying that the cop is lying. Otherwise, why would you be there? An experienced cop has been in court virtually being accused of lying or making a mistake many times in his/her career. This is why it is important not to draw attention to yourself when you are stopped for a traffic violation and given a ticket. Be a jerk and the cop will always remember you. Play it off and accept responsibility when you get stopped and during court the cop may not remember much about that ticket he/she wrote to you 6 months ago which will work to your advantage.

  • IGB

    I was pulled over 13 times before I got my first speeding ticket. I pretty much stuck to the suggestions above and they worked. I lived in the Northeast at the time and the cops there seemed a bit more human.

    Now that I live in South Carolina, I get 1-2 tickets a year. All for about 10-15 MPH over the limit. I'm still just as respectful as always but the cops here could care less as they meet their quotas.

    BTW I'm a public servant as well.

  • Neil

    Well yes, in the U.S. all these comments are relevant. But remember this website is seen the world over and the same criteria don't necessarily apply everywhere. Where I live (a S.E. Asian ex-US colony), the /ONLY/ reason you get pulled over is for cash. The saving grace is that the vehicle registration system is so disorganised that you can leave them standing on the kerbside knowing that they will never go to bother of tracing your address. Speeding, fortunately, is not one of the likely reasons for being apprehended as there are almost no speed limits here!

  • artifex

    I've been asked for license and insurance. I haven't been asked for "registration." What the heck is that?

  • clark

    Two additions to the list:

    if you get pulled over at night, turn on the interior lights so that the cop isn't looking into a dark car. while the officer probably has you light up already, the gesture is a good one.

    this one is a bit extreme, but again a good gesture - once you've pulled over and turned off the car, take the keys out and reach out your window (don't get out of the car) and place them on your roof.

    of course if you just pay attention while you drive and drive within reasonable limits none of this is necessary...

  • LeadFoot

    I agree with everhything mentioned in the article. I would also like to add these tips:
    Turn on your interior light at night (already mentioned).
    Pull over as much as you can on the shoulder to give the officer more room.
    Take your keys out of the ignition and place them in plain sight on the dashboard.
    If you see the police starting to come out after you, pull over quickly and safely as you can. It makes his job easier and safer.

    I have been pulled over many times and for excessive speeds and have gotten only warnings or seat belt tickets using the aboved mentioned tips.

  • Tony

    I would also add that if you have tinted windows, roll them all down as you are pulling over, while turning on the dome light. This will allow the cop to see completely inside your vehicle while he is approaching, which will decrease his anxiety about coming to the window.

  • Mushfiq

    Well! All these tips are nice... but mine might be a little better. I always carry a bottle of water in my car. If I am ever pulled over for going a little fast, I would wet,(yes! wet)my pants with the water. Then when the officer comes over i would have an excuse " My bladder is not very strong. I was trying to get to the nearest restroom". Thank god i was never pulled over but this once happened to my friend. Have been following his advice ever since.

  • Ross

    " ... you will satisfy the officer's need to assert authority (that's their job, you know)."

    Actually, that's not their job at all.

  • 18 Comments / 1 Pages

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