When you see a traffic officer signal you to pull over, PULL OVER. Look for a safe spot where the office can safely stand next to your car without risking his life. Pull into a parking lot if you can, but always signal to the officer to show that you are not avoiding him. If you must pull over to the side of the road, the right shoulder is almost always safer for both you and the officer.

Put your vehicle in park so that you cannot drive forward. Then the officer can park right behind you without worrying that you will try to drive away and escape.

Turn off the car, and possibly remove the keys from the ignition. If it is nighttime, turn on as many interior lights as possible. Remain in the car. Do not move or leave the car at any time during the stop unless you are asked to do so.

Sit still with you seat belt on and your hands on top of your steering wheel, in plain sight. Do not fidget around before the officer approaches the vehicle or at any time during the traffic stop. The officer will request your driver’s license, registration and insurance card. Leave your hands on top of the steering wheel. Describe to the officer where the papers are, and ask permission to get them. When the officer permits it, move slowly and deliberately to retrieve the documents for the officer. Avoid sudden movements that may make the officer feel you are reaching for a weapon.

If you have a medical emergency and really do need to get to the hospital fast, continue to show the police officer respect, but request the officer’s assistance to get to the hospital quickly. Remember, the police officer is doing the job you want him or her to do. You may not like that you are on the receiving end of his or her duties, but they are important duties.

Try to look as sad as possible. Do not say any of your problems, just look sad. It just may be enough to get you off with a traffic warning instead of a speeding ticket or red light ticket. Use respectful language, like “Yes, sir” and “No, sir”. Do not lie. The police officer is just going to get mad. Act natural and calm.

A traffic stop is the most unpredictable and dangerous part of normal police work, and officers are trained to approach vehicles with extreme caution. Be polite and cooperative when you get pulled over. Being belligerent or indignant may make you feel better but it might cost you more. By being polite and cooperative, the officer may just write your traffic ticket for a less costly offense instead of what was actually committed and with luck, you might just get a warning.

Avoid admissions of guilt and never make excuses or create outlandish stories. When you are asked if you know why you were pulled over, just respond with a simple and polite, “No officer, I do not”. Keep in mind that honesty is the best policy especially when you prefer to get off with merely a warning. On the other hand, if you do get a traffic ticket, and decide to contest it, remember that any admissions you make, can be used against you later.

Ask the officer if you can pay for the traffic ticket fine by mail. The officer will immediately see you as a low probability to go to traffic court and may take fewer notes. When you do challenge the traffic ticket, the officer’s sparse notes will make him want to skip the hearing.

Question the officer more directly, after you are handed the traffic ticket, about how the offense was detected and verified. In the case of a speeding ticket, find out where the officer was positioned when he clocked you and what type of speed measurement device was used and if it was radar,lidar or laser. Gather as many specifics as possible, including the serial number of the radar device, if already not indicated on the speeding ticket. If,
however the officer estimated your speed by following you, then find out what the location was when he began to follow you. Make sure you write down the patrol car’s license plate number and his badge number. If you were cited for an offense other than speeding ticket, make sure you understand exactly why you were pulled over, especially if you were cited for something that could not have been easily seen. Do note that the officer does not have to actually give this information at the time of the traffic stop.

If the traffic officer relies on radar for a speeding ticket, ask to see the display of your speed on his radar unit. Often the officer has either cleared the result from his display or is fudging. This will not lead to a dismissal by itself, and in some jurisdictions the officer is not required to show you the display but discrepancies or lack of evidence may help as part of your defense.

Check your speeding ticket for accuracy by reviewing it immediately upon receipt. Make sure that the information is legible, if not, ask the officer what he wrote and make a note of it on another piece of paper, not on the ticket.

If there are inaccuracies that may hurt your case (i.e. if the officer notes on the speeding ticket that you crossed two lanes of traffic when you only crossed one, or if he says traffic was heavy when in fact it was light), ask him immediately to correct them. Be very polite when requesting changes to your speeding ticket. However, if you find that the officer is not accommodating, do not argue but record the actual circumstances in your mind, and after he leaves, jot it down on another piece of paper.

On the other hand, if there are inaccuracies that may help your speeding ticket case or get the speeding ticket dismissed, you do not want to call attention to them. Such as, the direction of travel is not consistent with the traffic control device that you allegedly violated.

Once the police officer has given you your speeding ticket and left the scene, record relevant details, such as traffic and road conditions, weather, time of day, and any extenuating circumstances. If you have a camera or cell phone camera take pictures, especially if your speeding ticket defense depends on something like an obscured speed limit sign or a huge pothole that you had to swerve to miss. Without compromising your
safety and the safety of the others, go to the officer’s original position (whether stationary or moving) and check for any obstructions that might have caused them to have a poor view of the alleged offense or that might have caused the speed radar to malfunction. Make a diagram of the road showing where the officer was positioned, which direction you were traveling, where you eventually stopped, and other important details.

Read the fine print on the speeding ticket after you get home, as there is useful information on there that might help you. Make sure you understand all of it, as it will give you instructions on how to proceed to the next step.

Majority of traffic tickets in California are issued by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Click on the following links for information about the CHP enforcement and the CHP programs: