Police car showing behind car in mirror


Venessa Bornost Jan. 18, 2022

Anytime I have been pulled over by a police officer I always get a sinking feeling in my stomach. Regardless of my training and experience as a former police officer I cannot help but feel a little uneasy when I see the flashing lights and hear the siren behind me.

Fortunately that has not happened to me many times recently, however nonetheless I wanted to share my personal and professional perspective on traffic stops and tips for a driver when stopped by the police.

  1. If you see a marked cruiser or unmarked cruiser with its emergency equipment activated behind you make sure to pull over in the most safe and efficient manner as readily possible. Why are you being stopped? Most likely the officer has probable cause to believe that you have committed a traffic infraction or perhaps the officer ran a check on the vehicle tag and it has revealed that your license is suspended.

  2. Roll down your window and if at night place your interior light on within the cabin of the vehicle.Why would you roll down your window? If you have dark tinted windows or it is at night the officer wants to be able to see within the interior of the vehicle for any potential threats such as other passengers, weapons, and the placement of your hands.

  3. Do not make any furtive movements while the officer is approaching the vehicle. What do you mean by furtive movements? If you are nervously moving around inside the vehicle while the officer is approaching the driver’s window your movements will already heighten the awareness of the officer and alert the officer of possible danger.

  4. Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times until the officer makes contact with you. Why is the officer concerned with my hands? All officers are trained to watch an individual's hands. The reason is because if the person moves their hands out of the officer’s sight the individual could be reaching for a weapon.

  5. The officer will probably ask you for your license, registration, and insurance. Before reaching for the requested documents you may want to ask the officer or tell the officer where the documents are located. Why should I tell the officer where my documents are located? It will put the officer at ease to know that you will be reaching into the center console, glove box, or inside a bag or purse before you just start lunging for the documents.

  6. If you do not have the requested documents then be candid with the officer instead of searching for documents which you know you do not have in your possession. Why should I say anything to the officer? Each driver is required to carry their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If the documents have been lost, stolen, expired, or suspended it will be discovered by the officer eventually.

  7. If you are carrying a concealed weapon you will want to inform the officer that you have a concealed weapons permit and you have a weapon located within the vehicle or on your person. Do not reach for the weapon. Wait for the instructions from the officer. Why would I tell the officer that I have a weapon? If you are storing the weapon inside the glove box or center console and this happens to be the same place you store your documents then once you open the glove box or center console if the officer see’s the weapon they will immediately move into high alert. To avoid any confusion for either party it is best to inform the officer of the location of the weapon.

  8. Once the officer tells you the basis of the traffic stop for example “The reason I stopped you was for speeding” do not argue with the officer. If you feel the officer is incorrect you may wish to contest the ticket in court. Why shouldn’t I tell the officer he or she is wrong? Generally arguing with the officer will not change the outcome of the citation. It is best to comply and then consult with a traffic attorney to fight the ticket later in court.

  9. If the officer asks you to step outside of the vehicle then step out in a slow and steady fashion. Can the officer ask me to step outside the car? Yes in the case of Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977), the officer can ask the driver to step outside of the vehicle.

  10. Once outside the vehicle do not run away or resist the officer’s commands. Should I automatically get out of the vehicle once I am stopped? It is best to stay inside the vehicle unless directed by the police officer to step outside of the vehicle. Each agency may have different policies on how to handle a traffic stop. For example a traffic stop in Alachua County Florida ended in an arrest of the driver when he failed to follow the officer’s commands. The case was later dismissed.

If you have been cited with a traffic citation or arrested after a traffic stop you may want to consult with an attorney to understand your legal rights.

Call our office if you wish to discuss your case (727) 330-7800.