What to do if you are stopped by police for a traffic offense in Ohio

Mark Weaver

Written by

Litigation Lawyer - Columbus, OH

Contributor Level 10

Posted almost 5 years ago. Applies to Ohio, 0 helpful votes



What to do when you see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror

Carefully move into the right lane if you aren't there already. Put on your right turn signal and look for a safe place to pull over. Pull over as far to the right as you can. If it's night time, turn on your overhead light. Roll down your windows and put both hands on the steering wheel.


Greeting the officer

The officer may approach slowly, because traffic stops can be dangerous for police. With your overhead light on and your hands on the wheel, you're sending a key signal to the officer that you're not dangerous. The officer will greet you and, most likely, will ask to see your driver's license, car registration, and insurance card.


How to respond

You are required to provide identification of some sort to the officer. The officer may ask you some questions about your speed, your driving, etc. Be aware that the things you say in response can be used as evidence against you if you go to court. Don't reach for your documents without explaining to the officer what you're doing.


Whether you should argue

Although most police officers have some discretion as to whether to issue a citation, the alleged offense may remove discretion. For example, no one talks their way out of a drunk driving arrest or a school zone speeding ticket. If you believe you have a reasonable explanation or excuse, offer it respectfully. Cooperation and acting like an adult are more likely to help you than being accusatory or unruly.


If you get a citation

If you do receive a citation, stop all arguing immediately. The decision has been made and your only recourse will be in court. Read the citation carefully to see if you are required to appear in court or if you will be permitted to plead guilty by mail and pay the fine by mail. Check all of the information on the citation. While it's not true that any error in the officer's writing will allow you to get the case dismissed, there are times when relevant inaccuracies will increase your ability to get the case dismissed. A lawyer can help you determine if that's true in your citation.


Call the court

If you want to learn more about what you can do about your case, call the court clerk. The number for the clerk will be on the citation. The employees at the clerk's office can NOT give you legal advice, but they can explain the process and help you if you need to have your case postponed. They can also explain the payment options if you want to plead guilty.


What about points

In Ohio, convictions for moving violations are reported to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). At that point, you will have points assessed against your license. Only the BMV assesses points. The court has no control over whether or not you get points.


Talk to a lawyer

If you are concerned about the effect of points on your drivers license or if you want to fight the citation, you would be best served by talking to an attorney familiar with this area of the law. Call your local county bar association and ask if they have a lawyer referral service. If so, the service can help you find a qualified.

Additional Resources

Ohio BMV

Ohio State Bar Association "What are my rights"

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