As a group of gearheads, we have been pulled over by the police so much we should get a free ticket to the policeman's ball. That is right, the staff here at Sport Truck are seasoned veterans when it comes to the flashing blue and reds in the rearview. We know the feeling all too well. You see the lights, your pulse quickens, your mind starts going over things like, What did I do? How much is this going to cost? Do I have my current insurance card? And so on.
We used our powers of persuasion (we begged) to sit down with an officer from our local precinct and find the best things to do when you get lit up. Most of the guidelines he gave us can be considered common sense, but a few may surprise you. Using some or all of these techniques will hopefully minimize your chance of getting a ticket.
Sport Truck: How long have you been on the force?
John Law: Four years and counting. I am a city police officer, not a sheriff or highway patrol, but most of the advice I can give should carry over.
ST: Will you get into trouble if your supervisor sees this?
ST: So using your real name is out of the question?
ST: Besides the obvious things like doing 100 mph in a school zone, what other things do drivers do that guarantee them getting pulled over?
Jl: Cutting off the squad car, not yielding to emergency vehicles, abrupt lane changes, jack-rabbit starts, hitting switches, loud music that doesn't get turned down, out of date vehicle registration, and here in California, tinted windows.
ST: Cutting off the squad car. That has happened to you?
Jl: Yes, and I gave him a ticket.
ST: When you light someone up, what can they do to minimize getting a ticket?
Jl: Pull over safely. Don't try and find a driveway or something like that just pull over. The officer will tell you if he wants you to move. You can block a lane; the lights on the cop car will direct traffic. The reason to pull over quickly is because the more you delay the more cops will think you are doing something shady. Once you have pulled over, roll down all windows. The driver should leave his/her hands on the steering wheel and do not remove your seatbelt. The passengers should place hands on the dash or the back of the seat for rear passengers. Mainly you want to put your hands in plain sight. Don't move until instructed. When instructed to get your license and registration and proof of insurance, do so at that time. When you have relinquished your paperwork, put your hands back on the wheel and sit still. No begging, nobody likes to hear someone whine, especially us. Don't offer up any unasked information (Why admit to something he is not asking?) just answer any questions directly. Now if the officer asks "Do you know why I pulled you over?" just respond with "No sir." The officer is fishing for you to admit to something instead of him having to prove it. If you are on parole, probation, or have outstanding violations, tell the officer immediately. He's going to find out anyway. Honesty will go a lot further than you think.
ST: What if I feel the cop is treating me unfairly?
Jl: You can request a field supervisor, but that will most likely guarantee you getting a ticket, if not worse. The best advice is to be calm now and make a formal complaint the next day at the station.
ST: Can I just not sign the ticket?
Jl: Refusing to sign a ticket is an arrest-able offence. Signing it is not an admission of guilt, just a promise to appear in court. So just sign it and then make a complaint.
ST: Does a good attitude have anything to do with maybe getting a warning?
Jl: Definitely. We are people too, and the nicer you are to us the nicer we can be to you. Basically, most people don't know the vehicle codes--the California codebook is 3-inches thick and if you read it you'd know you're almost always in some sort of violation. Most of the time, you are in the wrong, so being nice and respectful will help you get off.
ST: What things will make you impound the truck?
Jl: First and foremost, driving with a suspended or revoked license will certainly get you towed. Your truck will be gone for 30 days, that's the law. And impound fees are expensive. Drugs, weapons, and other contraband can also get your truck hauled away. One thing to remember is, everything illegal in the vehicle is the driver's responsibility no matter if it belongs to the passenger, unless it's on his person (in his pocket).
ST: So if my buddy is holding and he stashes something under the seat and then says it's not mine, it becomes my problem.
ST: Sport Truck is a custom truck magazine, what about modifications?
Jl: Technically modifying a vehicle is illegal, but as long as the mod is equivalent to stock or better you should be fine. Just know rollpans are illegal. Bumpers need to be crash-tested to 5 mph and the rollpans are not. Also, you can move the license plate, just make sure it's readable, has a light, and is straight.
ST: We have a lot of readers who have airbagged trucks. Is that an issue?
Jl: One thing that will draw attention is playing with your adjustable suspension while on the road. If an officer sees you hitting switches you will almost certainly get a bunch of modified suspension violations.
ST: Tell me the one thing that gets under your skin the most?
Jl: Oh that's easy. My biggest pet peeve is people not knowing how to yield. Always pull to the right as soon as you notice the squad car approaching. If you are stopped at a light, go ahead and pull out just enough to let the car get around you, even if the light is red. We officers have to pass on the left--that is our law--so get out of the way to the right at all times.
ST: I want to thank you for your time. Is there anything else to consider?
Jl: No problem. A good tip is to make sure you have your current registration and insurance in an easy-to-find place. Put it in an envelope in the glovebox. If the officer knows you have your stuff together he might be a little more lenient. Last, but not least, police don't make laws--we enforce them. So if you have an issue, take it up with your city council.
What To Do When You Get A Ticket
1. Always plead not guilty and ask for a court date. You can do this by certified mail, going to the clerk's window, or going to the court room. You are innocent until proven guilty, so make the officer prove your guilt. Don't do it for them. This will give you time to calmly consider your alternatives and make a better, informed decision. It is also the first step in saving money on a fine.
2. Delay the proceedings by getting as many continuances as you can by saying you're out of town, can't get off work, or you are sick, etc. Each continuance increases the chance that the officer won't appear in court, which will result in your ticket being dismissed.
Tips To Winning A Court Case
Dress Nice. Do not wear shorts, cut off T-shirts, short skirts, or anything you wouldn't wear to a job interview.
Know Exactly What You're Being Charged With. If you didn't violate every single part of the vehicle code that you are charged with, then be sure to point that out to the judge because unless you violated the entire vehicle code, you are not guilty.
The Officer Must Prove His Case. You don't have to prove your innocence, you just have to put doubt in the jury or judge's head that you didn't break the law.
Make Your Case. Bring along evidence to convince the judge that you are right and the officer is wrong. Statements of witnesses, such as passengers or bystanders, who testify to your version of events are good.
Draw It Out. A clear, easy-to-understand diagram showing where your vehicle and the officer's vehicle were in relation to key locations and objects, such as an intersection, traffic signal, or other vehicle. Diagrams are especially important for tickets given at intersections, such as right-of-way, traffic light, or stop sign violations.
Take Pictures. Photographs of intersections, stop signs, and road conditions. These can be used to show conditions like obscured stop signs or other physical evidence that backs up your case.
Explain The Facts. Any other evidence that would cast doubt on the officer's ability to accurately observe your alleged violation. A classic way to do this is to prove his view was obscured, or that his angle of observation made it impossible to accurately see what happened.
Prove Your Conduct Was Necessary to Avoid Harm
Argue that you had to violate the exact wording of the vehicle code to avoid a serious and immediate danger to yourself. Here are some situations that may work:
1. You swerve across a double yellow line to avoid hitting another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or other unexpected obstacle. If you had failed to take an evasive action, you would have been at high risk of being involved in an accident.
2. You are boxed in while driving in the right lane from the back and the left side by speeding cars. To avoid colliding with a car entering the highway from the right, you accelerate well beyond the posted limit.
Reader Stories From Hell
Here are a couple of stories from the forums at sporttruck.com. if you've got a cool story about your run in with the law, log on and let us know.
MOLDMAN66: I was with the usual suspects at the local parking lot hangout when I was "encouraged" to do a burnout when I was getting ready to leave. I had just finished doing a bunch of mods to the motor, so it was a requirement. There was a small puddle of water in the lot so I rolled thru it and laid one down in true John Force style, leaving a 100-foot wall of smoke in my wake. As I rolled to the stop sign and hit the turn signal, what pulls into the lot right next to me? Mr. Policeman. He stops, looks at the smoke everywhere, looks at me, I laugh and make my turn! It still makes me laugh. He was not as amused and proceeded to chase me down and pull me over about two blocks away. He could not "prove" I did it, and I claimed it was a car that headed the other way in the lot. I got the usual "Next time, I'm going to give you a ticket for every piece that is not stock, under the hood; chrome, headers, exhaust, blah blah blah." No ticket issued that time!
Here's one my friend did: Rolling down a two-lane street and the right lane has to merge left into one lane. My buddy is in the left lane and in the right lane next to him is a cruiser. The cop wants to get in front of my buddy so he speeds up, and so does my buddy. One goes faster, the other goes even faster; see where it's going? The cop cannot stop in time and goes off the road into a ditch! It cost my buddy over $3,000 for his lawyer to "arrange" for it to be dismissed in court. The cop was pissed! The look on his face was worth every last dollar my friend spent!
TBONE19: About a year and half ago I was pulled over for my stereo being too loud. I was sitting in a turning lane and before I knew it a cop pulls up to my truck. I figured there's not much you can do at this point, so I left it up and waited for the signal. He stuck his hand out the window and pointed for me to pull over. He walks up to the truck and asks me, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" I play dumb and say no. He said, "I was four cars behind you with my radio on, windows up, and you were still shaking my mirrors." I told him to wait a year and it would be worse. Two weeks later, I was in court over it and cost me $200, but it's well worth it. About five months later, I got pulled over again for the same thing but ended up spending time in jail. My license was suspended from failure to go to traffic school, window tint too dark, red neon lights, no seat belt, stereo too loud, and they tried to say my truck was too low, oh and failure to provide proof of insurance. I spent 10 hours in jail before I went to court and everything got dropped.
3 Defenses that Will Not Get You Out of a Speeding Ticket
1. Saying you were driving with the flow of traffic. If everyone else is breaking the speed limit, it doesn't make it OK for you to do it too. Besides, you just admitted to breaking the law.
2. Saying your speedometer was broken at the time you were given the ticket. It's your responsibility to ensure your truck is functioning properly.
3. Saying the officer was rude to you will not excuse you breaking the law.