If you suddenly see a police car come roaring out of the woods on a highway median as you flew past at 85 m.p.h., here's a news flash ... he is after you ... and you know it. Pull over to the shoulder right away. If you suddenly get in the right lane and go 45, do you think the officer will figure you weren't the same guy that he just clocked 20 miles over the speed limit, or that he'll think you must really be a cautious driver that had a momentary lapse of judgment so all is forgiven? Do you think if you quickly duck off at the next exit that he is not going to follow you? Do you think if you speed up to 90 that he is not going to go 110 to catch you? And now he's mad that you put him and others in a dangerous situation. You're getting pulled over so you might as well make it easy on him.
Stay in your car with your hands on the steering wheel.
This officer has no idea who you are. Although you know you'd never hurt a fly, the police officer doesn't know that. As far as he is concerned you could be an escaped convict or wanted for murder. Just put your hands on the steering wheel where they are visible to the officer and wait for him to get to your car, even if he stays in his car for a few minutes before getting out. If it is dark, put your interior light on if you can do so easily. Do not start rummaging around looking for your license, registration and insurance card that you know you are going to be asked for in just a minute. But most importantly DO NOT get out of the car unless the officer asks you to. You want the officer to feel as safe as possible, because under that big burly exterior, he is a little nervous too.
Be courteous and honest.
You know the routine. "License, registration, insurance card", then the inevitable question ..."do you know why I stopped you"? Maybe you were daydreaming and really don't know, but most times we have a pretty good idea. The officer knows why he pulled you over, he didn't do it on a whim and now wants to see if you'll help him out. You might as well admit it,.. "yeah, I was going a little fast". When he responds "20 miles over the limit is more than a little fast", you can say you were not aware you were going THAT fast and apologize. If you think you did nothing wrong, tell him that you really don't know, but do it respectfully. If you scream and berate the officer for doing his job, do you think he will then apologize and offer to escort you to your destination? Neither do I. We both know that after making you wait about a half an hour on the roadside you are getting a stack of tickets. You're not going to convince the officer he was wrong. Save the fight for court.
So you know the Chief of Police...big deal.
Don't start the conversation that you're the chief's golfing buddy and he is going to be very upset that the officer is doing this to you. So what if Officer So-and-so from the next town is your sister's boyfriend. You can work it into the conversation, but delicately. For example, "this is embarrassing, my sister's boyfriend is an officer in Anytown and he is going to be all over me if he finds out". If you get no follow-up from the officer, leave it alone, he doesn't care who you know. And if you happen to be someone of some local prominence, I can guarantee you that the answer to your question "Don't you know who I am?" will be answered with a "NO". Either that or does know and just doesn't care. Don't shove the PBA or FOP cards in his face either. Have them where he can see them and let him ask you about them, then you can show him. The card is not a license to break the law, it's a courtesy card ... and courtesy is a two-way street.
Most police officers are actually nice guys and gals. [Let me apologize for not doing the "gender neutral" thing throughout, most cops I know are men]
Show respect and get respect. Sure there are a few miserable people out there in every profession and law enforcement is no exception. We just have to deal with them (and feel sorry for their spouses). If the officer's attitude is bad from the start, nothing you do is going to help you. Just take your tickets and be on your way. While the objective is to get your break at the time of the stop and avoid court, it is not always possible. You can always go to court later, with or without an attorney, and see if you can have the charge reduced. Maybe the officer was having a bad day and is in a better mood when you see him in court. Maybe you find an attorney who finds that you have a valid defense or knows the officer's quirks and can deal with him better than you could. The bottom line is that if you don't give them attitude from the first minute of your encounter, most police officers are good people and will treat you the way you treat them.
"Have a nice day"...Don't those words bother you after you have just been handed a ticket.
Hopefully the nice, polite, courteous you was sent away with a warning or some minor, non-moving violation. You can mail in payment, not have to go to court and you didn't get any points. It wasn't that hard was it? You ARE going to have a nice day.
I can tell you that as a municipal prosecutor, when I saw in the officer's notes "Rude" or "Obnoxious" or words to that effect, they were followed shortly thereafter by "NO BREAKS" (usually in capital letters). As a defense attorney, those are the words I hate to see most on the back of a ticket.
Use this advice to try and help yourself. If it doesn't work, give one of us attorneys a call and we'll try and help you out. If you do get the tickets even after being polite and courteous, don't second guess yourself, the rude, arrogant you would have gotten them too.
So the next time you get pulled over (and I'm not suggesting that you drive around like a maniac to test this out), try it my way and let me know if it worked out for you.
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