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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

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  Flex Your Rights 
  What to do in a Traffic Stop 
  Traffic Tickets 

Being Pulled Over

It's almost dinner time and you are rushing home from your friend's house because you promised your parents that you would be home 15 minutes ago. Although the speed limit is 25 mph, you are going about 34 mph. As you approach the intersection, the light turns yellow, but you go on through because you don't have time to stop and wait. When you're through the intersection, you notice in your rear view mirror that you just passed a policeman .

"Shoot…" you think, when he turns on his lights and pulls onto the road behind you. There are several possible reasons why the lights are flashing. What are they and what should you do?

Possibility #1 (the one you are hoping for): He has just received an emergency call and is heading off to help. What should you do?

  • To get out of the way, pull over immediately to the right side of the road. Do not keep driving.
  • Turn off your music, and look and listen for other emergency vehicles that may also be on their way.
  • If everything looks clear, pull carefully back into traffic.

Possibility #2 (the one you're dreading): He is pulling you over. What should you do?

  • Pull over as soon as possible in a safe manner. Do not pull to the left side of the road or stop in an unsafe place, such as a blind corner. Place your car in park and take your foot off the brake.
  • If he pulls in behind you, stay calm. Turn off your engine.
  • Turn off your music, and roll down your window. Place your hands in a conspicuous place.

Remember, the police officer is just as nervous as you. When he approaches your window, be sure your hands are in sight so you don't appear to be hiding something. Be polite at all times.
Don't do anything unless you are told to do so (like giving them your documents), do whatever you are asked. If asked to get out of your car, do so slowly. If you are asked questions, answer them respectfully.

Some examples of possible questions are:

  • Why were you speeding? Was it an emergency?
  • Where were you going in such a hurry?
  • Is this your car? If not, whose is it?
  • Does the owner of the car know you are driving it?

Above all, be cooperative, patient, and polite, following all orders. If you feel that you are mistreated in any way, call the agency for which the police officer works. Ensure that you get the person's full badge number; these are just as good as a name in most places.