November 16, 2013 • By Dennis Beaver
We know the feeling. Driving along — perhaps with family, maybe a first date — listening to some great music when, suddenly, oh no! Red, flashing lights, and they aren’t on top of a Christmas tree.
A glance at the speedometer and a quick thought: “My goose is cooked.”
But is it?
As the officer slowly approaches your car, like Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry,” you think, “What can I say? How am I going to get out of this? There must be something! What are the magic words?
“I want my mommy! I should have paid more attention to that late-nite infomercial, for Dr. Beaver’s Magic Traffic Ticket Elixir at only $3.50 per bottle plus $750 shipping and handling.”
And then you wake up from the bad dream, but still with that lingering question: “What should I say if I am ever pulled over?”
Be prepared, polite and considerate of the officer’s needs
In a few weeks, California Highway Patrol Officer “Jay” will retire. This veteran cop — and others You and the Law has spoken with — feel betrayed by “the politics of forcing us to write unjustified tickets only to generate revenue for the state, and in the process, taking food off of the tables of Californians , as the fines are so insanely high.
“But there are things drivers can do which increase the chances of getting out of a ticket — or a real break on the speed that is written — influenced by attitude, honesty and preparation.
“In a very real way, by being considerate of the officer’s needs, you help yourself,” he points out.
“It’s dangerous, pulling over a car, then standing in traffic in the rain or cold while the driver is fishing around in the glove box for license, registration and proof of insurance.
“So, by having it all ready to present, this is really noticed.”
That point was also underscored by Hanford police Officer Per Westlund, who explains:
“Be respectful and nice to the officer, who might not be as relaxed as you think he/she should be. The officer is on very high alert, always prepared for the worst, such as being shot or assaulted. By showing respect and cooperation — not having to go rummaging around in a glove box where a weapon can be hidden — this puts the officer at ease, more inclined to work with you,” he stressed.
At night, turn on your interior lights and think slow motion
“Traffic stops at night are statistically the most dangerous,” Jay observes, “where your consideration and cooperation so impacts my blood pressure. Therefore:
• Turn on the interior lights.
• Keep your hands visible at all times, preferably on top of the steering wheel.
• Never make any sudden moves, such as reaching for a wallet or other documents.
• Ask the officer if it’s OK to reach in your pocket or to open the glove box.
Be honest — don’t argue
“How do you feel when accused of not telling the truth?” asks Officer Westlund.
“If you have been pulled over for speeding — and not just a couple of miles an hour over — but for really speeding or another clear violation, nothing is accomplished by denying the obvious or arguing with the officer.
“Sure, there are indeed some real cowboys out there who would cite their own mother, but most cops do not enjoy issuing tickets as it is such a negative encounter.
“So, if pulled over for an obvious violation, arguing or denying it has the same effect as calling the officer a liar. That is not a winning strategy.
“Rather, apologize for violating the law and promise that it will not happen again. Be sincere, and feel free to ask if it’s possible for the officer to give you a warning. You lose nothing by asking.”
Jay agrees with Westlund’s recommendations, and adds that he respects drivers who admit that they just weren’t paying attention to their speed, looked down and realized they were indeed going too fast.
“A lot of attorney blogs warn against admitting fault. But you would be surprised at the lawyers I’ve stopped who just come right out and say, ‘Officer, you got me! I was going too fast, truly I am sorry.’
“One who stands out even went further, stating, ‘I know the risks of your job and am sorry that I made you pull me over. I’ll take the medicine, whatever it is.’
“Instead of giving him a ticket, I asked for his business card.
“That was 20 years ago. He has become not just our family’s attorney, but my closest friend.”
Last week we promised you the name of Jay’s recommended radar detector that looks ahead and to the rear.
“Think flowers and a box of chocolates in February,” this good cop told us.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.