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Want To Avoid A Traffic Ticket? Here’s Some Advice

Posted in Crashes, driving, Featured, General, Guide, How To, Legal, Police, Politics, Roads, Safety, Street Racing, Tips, Traffic by Kurt Ernst | March 26th, 2010 | 16 Responses |

We here at RideLust have previously presented video on dealing with police, and I’ve got to tell you that it’s perhaps the worst advice I’ve ever seen given. It’s ACLU bullshit; while technically correct, it’s guaranteed to get you a ticket, an ass kicking or a whole lot of trouble you don’t really need. Consider this: you’re at a traffic light that changes from red to green. You look left, and see a fully loaded dump truck steaming into the intersection at full speed; it’s your legal right to proceed, because it’s his obligation to stop. Would you rather be right, or ground into pavement pizza?

I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on TV and this article will not give you a single piece of legal advice, but here are my credentials. I come from a law enforcement family, and know more than a few cops. I’m a certified firearms instructor, which puts me in contact with cops and ex-cops on a regular basis. Think you need to know the law to drive a car? Try teaching a concealed carry class, where absolutely everything you say or do can bite you in the ass if one of your students is involved in a shooting.

If you’re guilty of something, chances are better than average a cop is going to know. Think he can’t smell that blunt you smoked an hour ago? Think that saying, “I don’t consent to a search” is going to make any difference when he sees a pipe in your center console? Think that copping a “I know my rights” attitude is going to help your case? You’d be wrong on all of the above.

There is no way that you’re going to avoid a ticket 100% of the time. If you get pulled over, chances are pretty damn good you’re getting stopped for a reason. Cops are just like the rest of us; they have good days and bad days. Most just want to do their tour and go home at the end of the day; make it easy for them, and chances are they’ll make it easy for you. Sure, there are asshole cops out there, but the vast majority I’ve ever met are pretty cool; treat them with respect and they’ll generally reciprocate.

Here are my top ten tips on avoiding a ticket. Feel free to agree, disagree or send me the money you save on the next ticket you get out of.

• Make sure your vehicle and its contents are legal

Limo tint on front windows may look cool, but it may not be legal.

Sure, this may be obvious, but a lot of people don’t pay any attention to the state of their ride. Just bought a new car, with badass limo tint on all your windows? Expect to get stopped regularly, since that’s illegal in a lot of states (you can’t tint the front windows that dark). Got a tail light, brake like or directional out? Give a cop a reason to eye you, and that’s an excuse for a stop. Ditto for a cracked taillight or burned out headlight.

If your car is in compliance with your state’s vehicle code, you’ve just eliminated one reason for a traffic stop.

• When stopped, be courteous

The only good advice I witnessed in the first video (The Proper Way To Handle A Police Stop) was to keep your hands on the wheel. Look at the cop’s perspective; when he pulls you over, he doesn’t know that you’re a decent person. For all he knows, you could be a serial killer looking to put another notch on your Glock. Make him uneasy (leaving the driver’s window cracked and not fully open, for example) and he will make your life hell.

Here’s my sequence when stopped:
• Pull to the right shoulder as quickly as it’s safe to do so.
• Stereo off (and end any cell phone conversations).
• Motor off, car in park, handbrake applied.
• Driver and passenger window fully down, hands on the steering wheel.

When the cop asks you if you know why you were stopped, be honest. Bullshit does not get you bonus points; say, “I have no idea” when you were traveling 65 in a 35, and that’s guaranteed to get you a ticket. Say, “Ah crap. I should have been paying more attention to my speed” and you’ve begun the process of negotiating for a reduced fine or no ticket at all.

• Communicate, verbally and non-verbally

Gun in glove box with registration = really bad idea

Cops like to see your hands. Why? Because hands are what kill. Reach quickly into the glove box for your registration and the cop may think you’re going for a gun. Paranoid? Perhaps, but wouldn’t you be if people tried to kill you on a regular basis?

I like to give the cop the following info: “Officer, my registration is in the glove box. Can I grab it?” Of course he’s going to say yes, and chances are you’ve just put him a bit more at ease.

If you carry a gun in the car (and a lot of people do these days), make sure you’re in compliance with any applicable state laws. Don’t keep your registration in the glove box if you carry a gun in there (which is a really, really bad idea, by the way). Don’t lie if the cop asks you directly, “Do you have any weapons in the car?”, because if he finds it later you will be in for a whole lot of grief.

• Recognize achievement

Check his badge for the rank if you can't tell from his sleeves

Cops like recognition as much as the rest of us. Pulled over by a state trooper? Call him “trooper” instead of “officer”. Stopped by a guy with two stripes on his sleeve? Call him “corporal”. Three stripes? Call him “sergeant”. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this recognition than you will out of calling him sir; they know that you’re muttering ‘asshole’ under your breath, so the fake ‘sir’ doesn’t help your case in the least. When in doubt, stick to “officer”.

• Got any PBA or FOP cards? Use ‘em.

In my experience, a PBA/FOP card can often be the difference between a ticket and a warning. That said, make damn sure you know the cop whose name is on the card. You’ll get questions like “who is this” or “how do you know him”; if it’s a friend of a friend, be upfront. Cops know a lot of other cops, and they’ll pick up on bullshit in a heartbeat.

Hand the officer your driver’s license, insurance, registration and PBA card, but make sure the PBA/FOP card is on top of the pile so he sees it first.

• Be patient

Just sit tight, no matter how long the stop takes

I once got stopped in a small mountain town in Colorado, in the middle of the night. The cop alleged that I ran a stop sign, but I didn’t remember seeing one. I waited for 25 minutes while he ran my license and registration; when he came back to the car, he handed over my documents and apologized for the wait. No ticket, no warning, no nothing. Why? Because he was waiting me out. If I’d appeared nervous or anxious, he’d have found probable cause to search the car. My information came back clean and I wasn’t pacing back and forth, so he figured a ticket wasn’t worth the paperwork (or there really wasn’t a stop sign after all).

• Never argue with the cop

Yelling 'Nice legs, jack-off' ensures the cops presence at your court date

You can not win an argument with a cop. Piss him off, and the only thing I guarantee is that he’ll make your court date and remember every last detail of the stop. Make his life easy, and make your traffic stop forgettable, and you’ve just reduced the likelihood that he’ll remember the relevant details if you do need to go to court.

If he’s rude, or if you believe you were treated unfairly, get his name and badge number. Try to do this discreetly, because saying, “I want your name and badge number” isn’t going to help your case. You can report him to his supervisor, generally a patrol sergeant. If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to bounce it up the food chain to the tour commander.

• Don’t drop names

You’re the brother in law of the chief of police? If that’s really the case, chances are good your stop would already be over. Know the mayor personally? So do 10,000 other people. Unless you can back it up, don’t even try this angle, because the cop has heard every story in the book a few thousand times. If you really are politically hooked up, the cop will realize this soon enough.

• Don’t party and drive

Don't roll the dice. Photo: Bill Lavallie, Ledger Dispatch

Drive drunk? Drive high? You’re living on borrowed time, and sooner or later you will get busted. And rightly so. Get your freak on at your local watering hole, or in the privacy of someone’s home. Call a sober friend, call a cab or walk home; whatever you do, don’t get behind the wheel or drive with someone else who’s wrecked.

• Don’t drive like an asshole

I love speed as much as the next guy (probably more than most), but there’s a time and a place for everything. Think it’s cool to drive 65 in a 25 every time you pick up your buddy for classes? Believe me, people notice, and sooner or later you’re going to get popped. Think you’re getting out of a ticket when Mrs. Suburban Homeowner is yelling at the cop, “That’s the driver I called you about, officer”?

Likewise, if you weave in and out of slower traffic, pass on the shoulder, roll through stop signs and generally ignore red lights, you’re going to get stopped. And you will get ticketed, no matter what kind of pull you’ve got.

So that’s about it for the advice I’ve got. Feel free to hit me with any questions on the topic, and I’ll give you some real-world wisdom, not the ACLU bullshit we previously put up.

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16 Responses

  1. DaveMofo says:

    Great article! The first time I saw the ACLU article I just ruefully shook my head, glad that there are enough assholes out there to make me seem like a cake walk when I get pulled over.

    This, though…THIS is the advice that needs to be dispensed! Courtesy goes such a long way, especially in a day and age where it almost non-existent. Act like a jerk, act like you’re guilty of something other than traffic violations, or act like you’re better than, and your spokes will get busted.

    My best friend is a cop, we grew up together. He sees through bullshit with a clear eye, and I imagine almost every other cop has this keen ability as well. It’s certainly an asset for those drawn to this line of work. It’s taught me to just tell the damn truth to whomever pulls me over, because they’ll find out one way or another. Seriously, though! Great article!

  2. Kevin says:

    Being in the Marine Corps doesn’t hurt, either. I always pull out my military ID with my license: 2 stops, 2 warnings.

    • Kurt says:

      Kevin – right on. I forgot to include that in the article.

      Also, thanks for your service and your sacrifices.

  3. DaveMofo says:

    I second that, Kevin. Thanks much! You should def. have a get out free card!

  4. inthebuff says:

    Awesome article.

    I’ve gotten warnings when I was sure I was going to get a big ticket. Being resigned to getting a ticket seems to up the chances.

    Also, my wife has gotten stopped a bunch of times and has hardly ever gotten a ticket, so MHO? Cleavage works, too.

  5. James says:

    One more item that you may not want to have in the car: a radar detector. I had bought one some days before a long trip, and was caught speeding down the interstate. The darn item only got me into trouble as the only notice that it was detecting a signal was when the trooper flashed my car. I was caught dead to rights, and could not talk my way out of the ticket. I returned the darn item right after the trip, and I have not been issued a speeding ticket since then.

  6. Kurt says:

    Good point, James. Radar detectors signal intent to speed, all but guaranteeing a ticket.

    I got popped in Denver one time, and the cop cheerfully pointed to my radar detector as he was writing me up. “We clocked you on VASCAR”, was all he said. I haven’t used one since.

  7. D Smith says:

    I’ve been a Ca. Hwy Patrol Officer for 20 years. I always get a kick out of reading this type of article because some of them are so far off. But I have to say, this is probably the best all around advice I have ever seen!!

    • Kurt says:

      Thanks D! Some of it’s common sense, but a lot of it is having family in law enforcement. Does this mean I get a pass if you pull me over in CA?

  8. Jo Dean says:

    Wow, excellent tips indeed. I still prefer to exit the vehicle making sure the windows are up and the doors are locked, that way nothing “illegal” ends up getting “dropped” in your car by the friendly officer.


  9. Kurt says:

    Lou, the only problem I see is getting out of your car. It’s a sure fire way to test the cop’s timing on drawing his pistol, since they will always instruct you to stay in the car. I’d rather not test the guy’s ability to handle a firearm (especially when it’s pointed at me), so I’ll take my chances with the cop tossing contraband into my car.

    I won’t say it doesn’t happen, but I’ll say it doesn’t happen often.

  10. Rankin says:

    Hmm, so Kurt, PBA on top eh? I’ve always put it on the bottom, never gotten a ticket, but it makes more sense to let him see it first. I don’t know how I skirted a ticket in Lincoln Park one time when asked “How do you know this officer?” And I said, he’s my uncle and he works for the Paterson Sheriff’s Department. When the officer volleyed back “There’s no such thing, how often do you see him?” Luckily just last week was a truthful answer. That was a close one though. This is an amazing list by the way and I will make sure to not use “sir” or “officer” anymore i just need to remember those stripes.

  11. Vito says:

    Hey Kurt,
    I know I haven’t written there for a while, but could you refrain from adding little addendums to the bottom of my articles?

  12. Kurt says:

    Vito, I’ll remove the link.

  13. kari says:

    My husband and I recently harrassed by are local cops, neither have records. My husband arrested once for fishing without license on his person. Pulled over numerous times for no reason, and recently I was parked over to text not long enough to look suspicioud, car off keys in my hand . Cop turns light on calls backup. Iwas in my disabled moms car gave me permission to drive it, not knowing registration needed renewel. They towed moms car and took my license . Had an officer stand with me as if I were going to do something and then left me on the side of road with no ride at 10;00 at night. Eastside of town nowhere near my house. Its been almost a year and weve been pulled over numerous times more my husbands been arrested 3 times on a warrant. That the charges were dropped due to my husbands boss falsed charges, we had investigating officers come to our house telling us the DA dropped charges. He still was arrested 3 times even got 30 days for charges that were dropped four months earlier,