I got pulled over for the first time! It seems today you got pulled over for the first time, and that freaked you. It is a normal reaction. You might have been going a bit over the speed limit or have a broken tail light. Usually, the police will pull you over if there is anything outstanding about your car. In some cases, the officer could be kind and not give you a ticket. Even after hours, you might still be shaken up after this experience.
A few weeks after I got my license, I had a similar experience. I was still using my paper license. Driving home from school, I thought I’d take a longer route through the neighborhood. But then, police lights flashed behind me. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong, especially not speeding. The officer told me I’d missed a stop sign. Thankfully, he noticed I did stop at the next signs and let me go without a ticket.
Now, remember that when a police officer comes up to your car, they don’t know you and need to be cautious for their safety. Police officers can face danger during routine traffic stops, so they take these situations seriously. This article will give you tips on how to talk to a police officer, stay safe, and maybe even avoid getting a traffic ticket or getting arrested. If you get pulled over for the first time, don’t lie to the officer; just answer their questions briefly.
I Got Pulled Over for the First Time: Best Things to Do
Let’s look at some tips to help you talk better when a police officer stops you.
1. Let the Police Officers Know That You Recognize Them
When you notice police car lights behind you, turn on your emergency flashers to show you see them. Before the officer comes over, gently move to the right side of the road using your turn signal and find a safe spot, like a parking lot. After that, turn off your car’s engine.
You can use your cell phone to record what happens next. After that, lower your car window, put both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them, and if it’s dark, turn on your car’s interior light. Move slowly and avoid doing anything suspicious, like reaching under your seat, which might give the officer a reason to search your car.
Don’t reach into your pockets to get your driver’s license or registration unless the police officer tells you to. The officer might get worried if they think you’re reaching for a weapon and might react in a certain way.
2. Work Together with the Police Officer
You should always follow the officer’s lawful requests. If they ask for your name and address, give it to them without delay. The officer does not have to explain the reason for the stop right away. They can ask you to stay in your car or step out. Make sure to obey their instructions and be polite, because politeness does not cost anything.
3. Let the Officer Lead the Conversation
When the officer pulls you over, they will want to see your driver’s license and registration. Let them begin the conversation, and try to stay calm and polite. Do not demand why you were stopped; say “Of course” or “Sure,” and give them the documents. If you need to reach for them in your pocket, purse, or glove compartment, just let the officer know and wait for their permission.
Many officers are trained to act like they might give you a verbal warning, but only if you cooperate and answer their questions. However, sometimes they might seem friendly enough to make you say something that could be used against you in court. So, be careful about what you say during a traffic stop.
The officer might want you to admit you broke a rule. For example, don’t say sorry, hoping for a warning. Saying, “Yes, officer, I know I was speeding, but I won’t do it again,” is admitting guilt. Sometimes, they want you to admit you did not realize you did anything wrong.
4. Refuse to Grant Permission for a Search
Don’t say “yes” to a search. If an officer asks to search your car, it’s harder to question any evidence later. Even if they can legally search, they might ask for your permission when they should not. If the officer asks you to get out of the car, they can search you for weapons if they think you might be a threat. If they find something that seems like a weapon, they can inspect it more closely.
5. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
Even though drinking and driving is not a good idea, you don’t have to say you have been drinking. In most places, you can do tests like walking in a straight line without getting into trouble. But if you refuse, the officer might become more suspicious, and it could take longer. In some places, the prosecutor might mention your refusal to cooperate in court.
Blood tests, breathalyzers, and other chemical tests are a bit different. If you say no to these tests, you can lose your license for up to a year because of the ‘implied consent law’. This law means that when you get a driver’s license, you agree to take any chemical test the police officer asks for.
6. Fasten Your Seatbelt
Don’t take off your seatbelt. Keep it on until the officer comes to your car and sees it. You don’t want an extra ticket for not wearing it. It also helps the officer feel safe because it’s harder to fight or run with your seatbelt on. If you put on your seatbelt right after the officer pulls you over, it might make them suspicious. If you weren’t wearing it, just leave it off. Once the officer is behind you, there is not much you can change.
7. Stay Tuned for Guidance
When talking to the officer in charge, it’s important to stay calm, follow their instructions, and only speak when they ask you to. You can begin with a friendly greeting to make the officer feel at ease, but then try to respond only when they have a question for you.
Usually, you should stay in your car if you get pulled over by an officer. But if they ask you to get out and you’re sure you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t immediately obey. Instead, politely ask the officer why they want you to step out. Avoid getting angry, as it might make the situation tense.
When you step out of your car, you can roll up your windows and lock the doors. Then, calmly but clearly, let the officer know that you do not consent to any searches of yourself or your car. This reminds them that it’s against the law to search you or your vehicle without your permission or a warrant.
8. Help the Officer to Be Comfortable
Police officers face risks during “routine” traffic stops. Even if you’re friendly and harmless, the officer doesn’t know you. For their safety, officers must treat every traffic stop similarly.
Unfortunately, they have to consider the possibility that you might pose a threat. Making an officer feel comfortable can increase your chances of receiving a warning instead of a ticket.
Tips to Make an Officer Comfortable During a Stop
Here are some tips to help with that:
Turn Off the Engine
When the officer asks you to pull over and get out of their car, simply turn off your engine. This shows the officer you do not intend to drive away quickly.
Switch on the Interior Dome Lights in Your Car
The officer might look inside your car for weapons or other people. If you were stopped at night, it’s polite to turn on your dome light for the officer.
Remain Inside Your Vehicle
Getting out of your car can lead to a traffic ticket when you’re pulled over. Stay inside your car unless the officer tells you otherwise.
Keep Both Hands on the Steering Wheel
Officers feel safer when they can see your hands, so they know you don’t have a weapon. Putting both hands on the steering wheel helps put the officer at ease.
Communicate Your Intentions
Avoid sudden movements. If the officer asks for your registration, but it’s in the glove box, let them know first. Do not rush to grab it. You can say, “I need to check the glove compartment; is that okay?”
Do You Get a Warning on First Pull Overs?
Let’s say you were driving at 73 mph in a 55 mph zone, and although the officer reduced it to 65 mph, you still received a $150 ticket. Shouldn’t you have gotten a warning since it’s your first time? Well, it is up to the police officer whether to give a ticket or just a warning.
While it’s your first offense, there’s no rule that says they must give a warning for a first-time traffic violation. If they believe there was a law violation, they can decide to give a ticket or even arrest. Think about it: would you think it’s fair to just get a warning if someone was speeding at 80 mph, 90 mph, or 100 mph in a 55 mph area, just because it’s their first time?
Officers have seen and given warnings before, but it’s not very frequent. The officer did give you a bit of a break by reducing your speed. It might sound tough, but you could have gotten a ticket for the entire speed you were going. It is like you didn’t realize the favor you received.
So, like you, I got pulled over for the first time at some point. I simply managed myself well enough for the officer to let me go. Once the police officer returns to their patrol vehicle, you can get back on the road and continue your journey.
If you got arrested or received a ticket, you can always reach out to a lawyer with experience in criminal defense or traffic cases. You need their professional guidance to defend yourself and beat the court if necessary.
Read also: How to Judge Distance When Changing Lanes