The Why's and How's of a Traffic Stop
Sooner or later it happens; flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror, a guy in a uniform strolls up to the car window, introduces himself and asks for a license and registration.
A traffic stop generally happens for one or more of these four reasons:
The driver and one or more passengers look like a suspect.
If there has been a crime and one or more of the passengers looks like the perp, the police may pull the car over and ask for identification and other related questions.
The driver disobeyed a traffic law
Traffic citations are a common reason police pull a car over. No, police do not have traffic citation quotas, however, anyone who drives is well aware that traffic violations exist and a cop who habitually ignores them will soon come under the ire of management and fellow police officers for failing to perform.
There is a problem with the vehicle or driver.
If there is a tail light out or the license tag appears to be missing, the police may stop the car. They will also stop a car if it seems to be weaving or driving erratically, such as what one would expect if the driver was drunk or having a heart attack.
The driver may have witnessed something
Sometimes, a driver or passenger will see something, possibly without being aware of it. In this case, an officer will stop the car and ask.
Things a driver can do to make the stop go smoothly
- Pull over to a safe spot and stay in the car. The driver's hands should remain on the steering wheel. Passengers should stay calm.
- Allow the officer to introduce himself and state the reason the vehicle was stopped. This should always be the case.
- Wait until the officer asks for documents and mention where those documents are before reaching for them. Move slowly. Police work is hazardous and quick movements could be misinterpreted.
- The law under ARS 13-3102, states that any person carrying a concealed firearm must acknowledge and comply with the demands of a law enforcement officer when asked if he/she is carrying a concealed deadly weapon if the officer has initiated an "investigation" such as a traffic stop. During the stop, the law enforcement officer may take temporary custody of the firearm for the duration of that contact for officer safety purposes.
- If you are issued a ticket and are unsure as to the reason, ask for clarification without arguing. Arguments are not useful, helpful, or worthwhile. That is the reason for court.
- Treat the officer in a manner which is consistent with your best personality traits, such as cooperation, honesty, and courtesy. Invariably, cops deal with a lot of argumentative, lying, grumpy people. Don’t be that guy.
Signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt. It’s a promise to either appear in court or pay the fine.