What to Do When a Police Officer Pulls You Over

Anthony N. Palumbo from the Union County, New Jersey law firm of Palumbo & Renaud is a criminal defense attorney with more than 35 years of criminal trial experience. If you need help because you were pulled over by the police and accused of either a crime or a traffic offense, contact me for a free initial consultation. Our firm defends individuals accused of offenses in Elizabeth, Linden, Clark, Rahway, Roselle, Garwood and throughout New Jersey.

It is often very frightening to be pulled over by a police officer. Flashing lights...screaming sirens...all contribute to fear and confusion.

What do you do when this happens?

  • Pull off the road at the first available safe location. Pull as far off the road as it is possible for both the officers and your safety.
  • Sit in the car quietly, remaining calm with your hands on top of the steering wheel in clear view of the police officer's vision at all times. Do not fidget around, do not make any quick or sudden movements, just wait. The officer does not know you, he does not know if you are dangerous or not and is concerned about his safety.
  • Wait for the police officer to approach your window before you start searching for your driver's license, registration and insurance information.
  • You should be courteous to the police officer and respectful to him, even if you are upset because you were pulled over.
  • When he asks for your credentials, move slowly and deliberately, tell him where you are going to look for your credentials. They should be usually kept readily accessible in a glove box or some other convenient location.
  • If you have a weapon in the glove box which you have a permit to carry, you should let the police officer know immediately so he will not overreact thinking that perhaps you were going to use the weapon against him.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel and stay in the car until instructed otherwise by the police officer.
  • Getting out of the car without being told to by the police officer might possibly be considered a threat and the police officer might act accordingly.
  • Be polite, courteous and do not argue with the police officer about the reason why he pulled you over. You won't win this argument. If you are courteous, polite and respectful, it may be that the police officer won't give you a ticket and may just give you a warning or send you on your way.
  • If the police officer asks you why he pulled you over, you should always say "no officer, I do not know."
  • Remember, if you decide to contest and fight the ticket that is issued and you made a statement to the officer, your words can be used against you at the trial. For example, if you tell the police officer "yes I know I was driving a little too fast" that is an admission of guilt and can be used by the police officer at the time of trial.
  • If you are polite, courteous and respectful to the police officer, it will be that much easier to work out a possible plea negotiation that is favorable to you at the court hearing.
  • You have the right to refuse the police officer if he asks permission to search your vehicle. Except in limited circumstances, a search warrant is necessary to search your car. If you have anything illegal in your car, do not give him permission to search your car.
  • If the police officer does give you a ticket, you have many considerations. Keep in mind that you may not be aware of all the consequences of a plea of guilty. A plea of guilty, depending upon the offense, could involve loss of driving privileges for a significant period of time, points accessed against your record which could lead to another suspension and to increased surcharges from the State of New Jersey, increases in your automobile insurance rates, and a number of very other unpleasant consequences. It goes without saying that it is foolish to plead guilty without knowing all these consequences. Only an experienced attorney who has handled thousands of these matters can give you the proper advice as to what the correct course of action should be.
  • If you fail to go to court when required, you will usually have a warrant issued and could be arrested for your failure to appear.
  • When your traffic stop is over, you should proceed back into traffic by putting your turn signal back on and safely proceeding into traffic when the lane is clear.