1) Pull over as soon as safely possible. Keep in mind that if you are in the left or center lane you should pull over onto the right shoulder of the road. If you need to change lanes to safely pull over please make sure that you remember to signal those lane changes. Many of my clients get additional citations at the time they are pulled over because they forget to signal as they make their way to the side of the road. If you are in an HOV lane, the correct place to pull over is on the left shoulder. If you exit the HOV lane improperly to get to the right shoulder you may be issued an additional citation.
No sudden moves.
2) Keep your hands visible and seatbelt on until the officer approaches your window. You may be a fine upstanding citizen, but the very nature of a police officer's job doesn't lend itself to giving you the benefit of the doubt. Once you have safely pulled over, place your vehicle in park, kill the ignition and place your hands on the upper portion of your steering wheel. Keep your seatbelt on until the officer is at your window. I have had clients who tell me that they were issued seatbelt violations because they removed their belt in order to retrieve their insurance card and registration from their glove compartments. Let the officer ask you for those documents and then remove your seatbelt while in his view.
A little respect can go a long way.
Be respectful. This may seem like common sense, but common sense is a very uncommon thing. I am comfortable saying that no police officer ever reconsidered issuing a motorist a ticket after the motorist subjected them to a barrage of insults, threats and sarcasm. Contrary to popular belief police officers do recognize sarcasm. Fight the urge to tell the officer off, to insult the police force, remind him that your taxes pay his salary or any of the other thoughts that are floating in your head. It isn't going to help you and may end very badly for you.
Fight the urge to explain or apologize.
Admit nothing. You will eventually be asked some form of the following question, "Do you know why I pulled you over today?" Unless you are some type of psychic you do not know the answer to this question. You may full well know that you were exceeding the speed limit, but for all you know the officer pulled you over because one of your blinkers may be out. Saying something along the lines of "well maybe I was going a bit too fast" or "I am in a hurry so I was probably doing a few miles over the speed limit" is not going to impress the officer with your candid honesty. All it is going to do is wind up noted on the supporting deposition that accompanies your ticket. So again, unless you are psychic you have no idea why the officer pulled you over.
Notice everything but don't look like you are noticing everything.
As soon as you are stopped take note of your surroundings, the traffic conditions, road conditions and weather conditions. Was the police vehicle that pulled you over a marked or unmarked unit? Try your best to remember what the police officer looked like. Make a mental note of his uniform and badge number. Examine the geography and topography of the road you were traveling on. Is it straight or curving, flat or hilly? Details like this can help in your case. Notice everything. Some people tell me that they think it is a good idea to ask to see the radar or laser unit the officer used to clock their speed. I respectfully disagree. Most motorists have no idea what to look for when it comes to examining one of these units and it serves no purpose other than alerting the officer that he should probably be extra diligent in his note taking on your ticket because you will probably contest.
PBA cards, decals, medallions, military ID.
I have no opinion on the effect of PBA cards, decals or medallions. Some people swear by them and some people tell me that it made no difference when they got pulled over. Will an NYPD PBA card get you some courtesy in the Big Apple? Possibly. Will it get you some courtesy in Riverhead? Maybe. It all depends on the situation I suppose.
"I am a very important person/I know very important people" argument.
Honestly, if you are important enough for this argument to work, you don't have to bother making the argument. Nobody likes a name dropper. On that note the officer is probably not going to be impressed that you are on the school board, your uncle is a judge in another state or that your college roommate once golfed with the Governor.
What do I do after I am pulled over?
Talk to an attorney. Determine whether or not it is worth fighting the ticket. The combination of points, fines and the effect on insurance can make it in your best interest to plead not guilty. Seek counsel as soon as possible. Details about the stop will be more vivid and the information you can provide will be more accurate in the days (not weeks) following.
When the routine is anything but.
What if I am asked to step out of the car, open up my trunk or take a field sobriety test? If this happens you are not dealing with a routine traffic stop and all of these questions will be covered in a future guide.