What Should I Do if Stopped by a Police Officer?

Officer MulliganWhen a police officer signals you to pull over:

  1. Pull over as far to the right as safely possible. This allows the officer to more safely walk to your car.
  2. Turn off the ignition.
  3. Turn on the interior light if the stop occurs at night.
  4. Place your hands on the steering wheel until the officer can make a safety evaluation as he/she approaches your car.
  5. Avoid making any sudden or reaching movements.
  6. Please stay in your vehicle unless asked by the officer to get out of your car.
  7. If you are carrying a weapon advise the officer of the weapon and its location.
  8. Always follow the officer's instructions.


Being stopped at night, particularly along a dark stretch of road, can heighten the tension for a motorist and an officer. Officers do not object to drivers proceeding to the nearest well-lit area. Simply acknowledge the officer by turning on your flashers and drive at a reduced speed.

If asked to step out of the car, walk to the rear of your vehicle to the side away from the traffic, or as directed by the officer, using the car as a barrier between you and on-coming cars.

The officer will ask you for two important pieces of information, your driver's license, and automobile registration. You will be told the reason for the traffic stop.

Please do not attempt to argue with the officer. This may only increase the tension in an already stressful situation.

Final Steps

Depending on why the officer felt it was necessary to initiate a traffic stop you may, or may not, be given a citation or warning ticket. If you receive a citation you will be advised of a court date which allows you the opportunity to take your case before a judge. Certain traffic violations require that if charged, you are taken into custody and must appear before a magistrate.

Once business with the officer is finished, you should merge, with caution, back into the flow of traffic.

Do not assume that the officer knows that you are the perfect, law-abiding citizen. Law enforcement can be dangerous work. Officers must be cautious at all times.