How to Handle a Traffic Stop

Say you are driving down the road, maybe a little bit over the speed limit or maybe a lot over the speed limit.

You see the flash of lights behind you. Officer Not So Friendly is standing next to the driver side door. No one is feeling calm right now. You roll down the window and the first thing the officer says is “do you know why I pulled you over?” Many people, in an attempt to talk their way out of a ticket, will immediately start offering excuses for their speed.

What the officer has done is to elicit a confession from you. “Wait,” you say “he didn’t read me my rights.” Miranda warnings or your “rights” are very important advisements that must be given before any custodial interrogation. Your confession, by law, is not custodial. It is part of a brief traffic stop but doesn’t rise to the level of being arrested, according to the courts.

So, how should you respond to that question? You certainly don’t want to annoy the officer. You can still hope to get a warning. What I like to do in this situation is smile very broadly and say something like “I’m pretty sure I’m about to find out.” No confrontation on your part but also no confession for the cop. The officer will still use those buzz words in court that every lawyer wants to hear “he was polite and cooperative” but if his radar isn’t working properly, they don’t have a case.

Remember, you want to interact as calmly and pleasantly as possible, but you don’t need to build the state’s case for them.

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