NJ Traffic stop tips
By Kalavruzos, Mumola and Hartman (KMH) LLC.
There you are, happily motoring along, and then you see those cherry tops flashing behind you. Your heart starts to race, you start to sweat, you wonder what you did wrong. You also wonder if there’s any chance you’ll be able to turn this traffic stop around. Is it possible to escape without a ticket?
Well, that depends. Were you driving 120 MPH while throwing whisky bottles out the driver’s side window? If so, the following tips probably won’t help you. But if your brake light was out, or if you were going a little bit over the speed limit, or if you were pulled over for any number of minor infractions, you have a shot. Here’s eight basic things to keep in mind …
- Immediately turn on your right blinker and look for a safe spot to pull over. Acknowledging to the officer you have every intention of getting off to the side of the road is a wonderful start to the process. Finding a safe spot to stop in a reasonable time-frame continues down this path.
- Once you pull over, take all necessary steps to put the officer at ease. Roll down your window. If it’s dark, put on your interior lights. Put your hands on the steering wheel. Do not exit the car. Turn off the engine. Do not reach into your glove box or under your seat. In short, do everything you can to not-so-subtly inform the officer you’re a peaceful citizen and you’re not planning on doing anything that is going to put the officer’s life at risk. Believe it or not, traffic stops are one of the most dangerous aspects of a police officer’s job. Put them at ease immediately.
- When the officer arrives at the car, no sudden movements. If he asks for your license, registration, insurance, etc., inform him where you’re about to go to get them. Again, this is to put the officer at ease and demonstrate you are not a threat.
- If the officer asks you why you think you got pulled over, claim ignorance. In short: Don’t say or do anything to incriminate yourself. If he asks you if you know how fast you were going, it’s probably best to not say a number over the speed limit. If the officer tells you were going such-and-such a speed, there’s no reason for you to agree. Just calmly accept what the officer says, maybe even throw in an innocent shrug. This isn’t the time to argue your case.
- Don’t engage in any small talk, chit-chat, etc. Be calm, courteous, speak when spoken to. Just like you’ve seen on any cop show, remember: You have the right to remain silent. Saying nothing is always preferable to saying something that will incriminate yourself. For instance, if the officer asks where you were coming from, saying “My best friend’s bachelor party” is probably not the best idea. Keep your answers short and simple and as plain Jane as possible.
- Never get out of your car unless instructed to do so. Getting out of your car will be seen as a threat.
- You do not have to allow the officer to search the car. He needs probable cause. So yes, if you have gun on your passenger seat and a bag of marijuana on your dashboard, you’re going to get searched. The officer has probable cause. But if there’s no probable cause and the officer simply asks to search your car, you have every legal right to simply say, “No.”
- And if you get a ticket, again, no reason to argue. That’s what court is for.