Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!

You've Just Been Pulled Over, Now What?

Your driving down the road listening to a new CD when all of a sudden the sound of sirens fill the air and there are blue lights reflecting in your rear view mirror. Your being pulled over by the Police. First time? Well, it happens to us all at one time or another. That feeling of "what did I do now." starts to creep up on you and your not quiet sure what is going to happen next."

"You can take a deep breath and relax."

Pull over to the side of the road, turn off your engine.... and stay in your vehicle! The Officer does not know who you are or what you may be capable of. In their minds you could be a wanted criminal, an escaped prisoner, or someone out on a drunk or drug induced ride. If you open that door, chances are you'll hear the Officer come across the speaker telling you to "stay in your vehicle!"

You should also know that if you reach under your seat, throw anything out the window, or move in anyway that may look like your hiding something, the Officer will see it. They are watching your every move the minute they make contact with you. Do yourself a favor. Reach for nothing and keep both hands on the wheel. For safety reasons, yours as well as the Officer's. He may not approach you without seeing both of your hands first.

When the Officer approaches your vehicle they will tell you why you were stopped and ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. They may have already checked your license plate number, which gives them some information before they pull you over. Who the vehicle is registered to, Address, City and State. If there is an "all points" listed on the vehicle's plate number. All of these answers help the Officer determine if they may be in danger of approaching your vehicle. They also may ask "Have you had anything to drink tonight?" If there is even a hint of alcohol on your breath, you will probably be asked to do some field sobriety tests. If the answer is no, you haven't the Officer will probably go back to his cruiser, check to insure your license and registration are valid. Then, write you a summons for the offense they had stopped you for. If the Officer determines you didn't really mean to do the infraction, ( loud exhaust, an expired sticker, your registration just expired ) They might give you a written warning. This gives you a certain number of days to get the infraction fixed.

If the stop was for a traffic infraction, you may be able to send in payment for the fine imposed. That will mean you plead guilty to the offense but you do not have to go to court.

If the infraction requires you to go to court, you will be given a time and date to do so. see: "First Court Appearance, Court Protocol"

"Now, for those who have been pulled over more than once, the deep breath and relax statement may not work."

You always wonder if that ticket you paid is in the system. Was there a fine you didn't pay? What will the Officer find when they run your name?

If you failed to pay a fine, you will probably find that there is a warrant issued for your arrest. The Officer will arrest you, throw you in jail and you will have to bail yourself out. see: "Bail Commissioner / Bail Conditions." If you do not have a licensed driver, your vehicle will also be towed.

If you have paid a fine, but the Officer comes back and tells you that the system doesn't show that, they will still arrest you. I suggest you keep a receipt of your paid fine in your vehicle, right next to your registration and insurance card. You may be able to convince the Officer that the fine was indeed paid by showing the receipt.

But I have to tell you, that might not be enough. If there is a warrant for your arrest because of your "paid" fine, you will probably be arrested anyway. The warrant was issued by a Judge and the Officer cannot go against that warrant. They no doubt will tell you to take that receipt into court with you and the warrant will be thrown out. But that's not going to help you now is it? So what good does showing the Officer the receipt? Well, they may have some sympathy for you. If there is no licensed driver, they may allow you to call one to drive your car instead of towing it. Maybe they will allow you to put it in a parking lot nearby saving the tow charge. They also might be able to get the "system" moving a bit faster to get you released. They know the system isn't perfect. If the receipt says it's been paid, I am sure they believe it.

"This actually happened to me. I was able to show the receipt and the Officer felt bad that he had to arrest me. So didn't I. But I didn't get upset. The Officer allowed me to call a friend to drive my car and I was placed in the front seat of the State Police cruiser while he drove me to the jail. Once there, he told the desk clerk of my situation. I was allowed to sit on the bench next to the desk clerk, instead of being placed in a holding cell with a bunch of other arrested people. I was also allowed to make my phone call quickly. I was bailed out for the price of the paid fine, and the bail commissioner fee's. My friend driving my car had followed me to the jail and was outside waiting for me. I went into court and showed my paid the District Attorney and the Judge. I received my money back, but not the bail commissioner's fee."

My Final Thought...

"Remember, if you are pulled over and arrested for a fine that you had paid, keep your cool! The Officer can understand that your going to be upset. But it is not their fault either. Don't get an attitude toward them. You may find that you get some "help" in your plight... from the Officer."