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What To Do When You Get Pulled Over For Speeding

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Traffic Stop 101: What to Do If You're Pulled Over for Speeding

Your heart is racing and your palms are sweating; you've just been pulled over for speeding, and you're terrified. A calm and collected response at this point is crucial; play your cards right and you could be let off with a warning. Freak out, and the outcome may be less ideal: steep fines, along with significant insurance rate hikes.

You have more control than you think in this situation, however. The following tips will help you avoid traffic tickets, or navigate the criminal justice system once they're issued.

How to Behave During the Traffic Stop

According to Dr. Jack Brown, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Studies and Criminal Justice Professor with University of the Cumberlands, "During a traffic stop every police officer with a is thinking the same thing: 'How do I conduct this stop in the safest way possible?' Once that decision is made, the officer then is in a position to observe the conduct of the person who has been stopped. The officer then proceeds according to the law, and according to his or her training, education, and experience." Officers with a Criminal Justice degree know exactly what it takes for a traffic stop to go smoothly, but you must play your part as well.

Dr. Jack Brown also recommends "When you get stopped for a speeding ticket you should immediately look for a safe place to pull over where you will be out of the way of traffic. Once you have identified the location turn on your blinker so the officer knows you are aware you're being stopped. Pull over and place your car in park. Do not remove your seat belt, do not reach in to the glove compartment. Do your best to remain still in the vehicle until the officer approaches your window." As the officer approaches, minimize tension by remaining calm and again, avoid sudden movement. Keep your hands on the steering wheel so it's clear that you don't pose a threat. Demonstrate empathy; officers sometimes face great danger when pulling drivers over, even for basic infractions. If you intend to fight your speeding ticket, brevity is your best friend. The more you say, the greater your risk of self-incrimination, as anything uttered now is admissible in court. Officers will aim for an admission of guilt, asking questions such as "Do you know why I pulled you over?"

Weigh your options. If you really did speed, honesty and a genuine apology could allow you to leave with a warning. If, however, you believe you followed all rules of the road, saying you're sorry could be viewed as an admission of guilt.

As you reach for your driver's license and registration information, make every move deliberate. Alert the officer if you're carrying a concealed weapon; in many states, failure to do so could lead to additional charges. Sign the citation if asked; this is not an admission of guilt. Once permitted to leave, take some time to regain your composure before you return to the road.

How to Respond After You've Received a Ticket

Despite excellent interactions with the law enforcement official who pulled you over, you received the dreaded speeding ticket. Your options now? Pay the fine or fight the charges. Your conduct during the initial traffic stop will largely determine whether you can realistically fight the ticket. All hope is not lost, however, if you lost your cool; you just face more of an uphill battle.

If you choose to fight your traffic charges, seek the assistance of a respected traffic attorney. Your legal representative will guide you through every step of the criminal justice process. The next steps vary considerably between jurisdictions, but most drivers can expect to participate in a pre-trial conference, or send a lawyer in their place. During this time, you or your attorney can strive for a plea bargain, or receive a date to return to court.

Traffic court is, in many ways, similar to criminal court. Your attorney and the prosecutor will submit opening arguments. Both sides will present relevant evidence, including witnesses, if they exist. The court process may also include cross-examinations or rebuttals. Following brief closing statements, the judge determines a verdict, and, if found guilty, a penalty. This could vary based on your conduct during the stop, your driving history, and whether the officer assessed any other infractions (such as the failure to provide your driver's license). Penalties typically include fines and, in many states, the addition of points to your driving record.

On the other hand, if you successfully defend your case, you could return home with a clean driving record and the low insurance rates you enjoyed before you were pulled over. Ultimately, your outcome will rely on the quality of your legal representation, and most importantly, your conduct as you interact with law enforcement.

University of the Cumberlands promotes safe driving. If you, or someone you know, is interested in law enforcement or criminology, we have several programs that can help start or advance your Criminal Justice career. For more information about our online undergraduate and graduate programs, call 855-791-7201 to speak to an admissions counselor.

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