Guide For Dealing With Cops
There are two
main schools of thought when it comes to dealing with a cop during
a traffic stop (or safety checkpoint). One of them is
disgustingly obsequious, unworthy of a free people. The other is
absolutely correct in principle but elements of it,
if followed to the letter, can and probably will lead to unnecessary
The first school
says Yes Sir and No Sir the cop, accede to his every request; be
cooperative (that is, surrender all your rights) and
Do As You Are Told. The problem with this approach is youre
counting on the cop to be decent, which he may not be. And if hes
not if hes a bully with a badge (and yes, they exist)
then your supine submission may actually egg him on. There are times
when its critical to stand your ground. I dont mean
be aggressive. I do mean dont be passive. If you make
it clear that people cops or otherwise can walk all
over you well, usually they will do just that.
Ok, so whats
the sensible middle ground? The practical, real-world smart
way to handle a traffic stop?
make sure you never ever leave your driveway
without your vehicle in legally faultless condition. All lights
working, stickers up to date, etc. If you dont give them
a reason to pull you, youve won before its begun.
never leave your driveway without your license and whatever other
paperwork the Clovers (government) have decreed we must
like it any more than you. But youre a noggin in search
of a wood shampoo if you get stopped by a cop and assert Sovereign
Citizen doctrine or some such. Im with you in principle.
We should not have to carry papers in a free country
and all the rest of it. But you will get exactly nowhere arguing
this point with a cop. No, wait. Thats not quite true.
You will get taken somewhere. To jail. This is
to be avoided, if at all possible unless you are that
ardent about making a point, at least. Which if you are
bully. But most of us would prefer to just get away and go home
- Next, if
Johnny Law appears on your bumper with his wig-wags flashing immediately
slow, put on your turn signal and pull off the road and
as far off the road as you reasonably can. Whether the
stop is righteous or vicious, doesnt matter. Hes got
the gun, the badge and the Authoritay. By pulling off as
far as you can onto the shoulder, youll be showing consideration
for officer safety, which may soften the cops
attitude. For the same reason, turn on the dome light if its
night, shut off the engine regardless and put both hands
on top of the steering wheel. Wait quietly.
- Save the
argument for later. Crack your window just enough to slip your
license and registration paperwork through. Keep the door locked.
Be civil but not submissive. Dont let yourself be
baited by the cop into any discussion that will lead to an admission
of guilt or admission of anything, for that matter. If
he asks you questions, just shrug or, if you prefer, respond with
a neutral, noncommittal statement. It is your right but
probably not wise to quote the Bill of Rights. Probably
it will just aggravate the cop and while I dont give
a damn about his feelings, I do understand that I am at his mercy
in a situation like this. You should understand it, too. If it
comes down to it, you should absolutely decline permission to
search either your person or your vehicle. Say it loudly enough
so that it will be picked up by the visual/auditory recording
equipment almost all cops now have.
- Make a
recording. They are recording you and whatever
they record will be used against you. Make sure you can tell your
side of things later on with the same incontrovertible there
it is, right on the tape verisimilitude. But, dont
make a big deal of it. In fact, try your best to make the recording
without the cop knowing. It could mean all the difference if the
cop is a bad apple one of the alarmingly common control
freak types, possibly hopped up on steroids and looking for a
punching bag, that can be found all over YouTube and other citizen
protest venues of late. Save the evidence for later, when you
will be at a much reduced risk of street justice and at
the ugly mercy of a cops word vs. yours. And dont
sweat the legality of recording a public official performing
his public duties. While a few proto-Stalinist enclaves
such as Illinois and Maryland have arrested citizens for recording
cops, these cases have uniformly been tossed by the courts.
line goal is to get done with the stop and be on your way again
as quickly as possible. To be as forgettable and anonymous
as you can be. To avoid escalation. To improve your chances
of beating the wrap later on in court or by gaming the bureaucracy.
that as much as it sucks as much as we value our natural
rights as free men when the deck is stacked against you,
discretion can be the smarter part of valor.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
Best of Eric Peters