A GUIDE TO EXPLAIN: WHAT HAPPENS IF A POLICE OFFICER STOPS YOUR VEHICLE
CONFIRMING, SUPPORTING AND STRENGTHENING THE CITIZEN AND POLICE PARTNERSHIP
Submitted by Sgt. Frank Haggerty
WHY WAS I STOPPED?
Moving Violations are the most common reasons a vehicle is stopped. Some examples include speeding offenses, failure to stop at a red light or a stop sign, failure to use a turn signal, etc.
Registration or equipment violations are other reasons a vehicle may be stopped by an officer. The laws governing driving privileges consist of approximately 400 pages. It is not uncommon for a driver to be in violation of the law without knowing it.
Criminal Investigations often involve searching for a “get-away” car. In today’s mobile society, criminals often use cars or trucks to facilitate their crime. Your vehicle may match the description of a suspect’s vehicle and therefore be stopped for further investigation.
Courtesy or safety concerns are other reasons an officer might stop your vehicle. For instance, your trunk may be open, something may be hanging from under your vehicle, or you may have left groceries on your roof.
STEPS TO FOLLOW IF YOU ARE STOPPED:
Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible. Turn your flashers or hazard lights on and wait for further directions from the officer.
Stay in your vehicle and turn on the interior light. Good lighting assists in good communication. Relax and remain in your vehicle. If you leave the vehicle, you subject yourself and the officer to the dangers of traffic, and the officer may view this action as a threat.
Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Wait for the officer to request your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Police officers are trained to ask for identification first and provide and explanation second. First, provide the proper documentation. Then give the officer a chance to explain the reason you were stopped. Providing you documentation will simplify and speed the process. Remember, most often the officer is in uniform with a name tag displayed. You have the advantage of knowing with whom you are dealing. Extend the courtesy by providing the requested identification without argument.
If you do not agree with the citation, or the officer’s demeanor, do not argue at the scene. All citizens have the right to question their citation before a judge. The court date, should you choose to plead not guilty, is printed on the citation. Contacting the violations bureau and informing them that you wish to plead not guilty is all that is needed. Should you feel that the officer did not handle the motor vehicle stop properly, every police department has an internal affairs system in place to investigate citizen complaints.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT POLICE PROCEDURES:
Q. “WHY DID THE OFFICER SEEM TO SNEAK UP ALONG SIDE OF MY CAR?”
A. Police officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic and therefore, reduce the likelihood that they will be injured.
Q. “IF IT’S ONLY A MINOR OFFENSE, WHY DID TWO OR THREE OFFICER SHOW UP?”
A. A second officer is usually assigned, even on a routine motor vehicle stop as part of a standard operating procedure. This provides safety and security for both the officer and the occupants of the stopped vehicle. Officers are trained that there is no such thing as a routine motor vehicle traffic stop due to the fact that more officers are injured during traffic stops than during any other work related procedure.
Q. “WHY DO OFFICERS SIT IN THE CAR FOR SO LONG? WHAT ARE THEY DOING?”
A. The officer is verifying your driving privileges and vehicle registration status through the statewide computer system. Though the officer has access to your motor vehicle records, it is the responsibility of the vehicle operator to provide the proper documents (driver’s license, vehicle registration, proof of vehicle insurance).
DID YOU KNOW?
CARRY PROPER IDENTIFICATION:
When driving a motor vehicle, you must have in your possession your valid driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of current insurance for the vehicle, if you are stopped and you do not have any of these items with you, a citation or summons, may be issued.
It is the driver’s (not the owner’s) responsibility to be sure that the vehicle being driven is insured and that the proper documents are in the vehicle.
It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the person driving the vehicle possesses a valid driver’s license.
MONITOR OCCUPANTS – DRIVER’S RESPONSIBILITY:
As the driver, you are responsible for the conduct of all the occupants of the vehicle. This covers such things as passengers throwing trash out a window, hanging their arms or legs out of a window, or acting in a disorderly manner.
As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts, and that children are properly secured. In addition, if a police officer stops your vehicle, don’t remove your seatbelt.
It is not our endeavor to simply enforce laws and statutes through citations and summons, but rather to promote a healthy and cohesive relationship with the motoring public in which safety and motor vehicle laws are the top priority. “NEW MILFORD LOVES YOU ALIVE”
MATERIAL USED AS REFERENCE IS PRODUCED BY THE BERGEN COUNTY POLICE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION