A Guide to Explain

What happens if a police officer stops your vehicle

"Why did you stop me?" The first question an officer usually hears.

Moving Violations are the most common reason a vehicle is stopped. Some examples include speeding offenses, failure to stop at a red light or stop sign, or failure to use a turn signal.

Registration or equipment violations are other reasons a vehicle may be stopped by an officer. The officer may determine the law violated is a minor infraction. This is why police departments issue warnings.

Criminal investigations often involve searching for a getaway vehicle. In today's mobile society criminals often use motor vehicles to facilitate their crime. Your vehicle may match the description of a suspect's vehicle.

Courtesy or safety concerns are other reasons an officer may stop your vehicle. For instance, your trunk might be open, something may be hanging from under your vehicle, or you may have left groceries on your roof.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Steps to follow if you are stopped:

Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible. Make sure you turn your flashers on, and motion to the officer that you are going to comply.

Stay in your vehicle and turn on the interior lights. Good lighting assists good communication. If you leave the vehicle you subject yourself and the officer to the dangers of traffic.

Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Wait for the officer to request your license and proof of insurance.

Police officers are trained to ask for identification first and provide an explanation second. First, provide the proper documentation and then give the officer a chance to explain the reason you were stopped. Providing your documentation will simplify and speed up the process. Remember, most often the officer is in uniform with a name tag displayed. You have the advantage of knowing with whom you are dealing. Extend the courtesy by providing the requested identification without argument.

If you do not agree with the citation, or the officer's demeanor, do not argue.
All citizens have the right to question their citation before a judge. The police department has an internal affairs system in place to investigate citizen's complaints.

Common questions about police procedures:

Q. Why does the officer sit in the car for so long after pulling my vehicle over and getting my license and registration? What is he doing?
A. The officer is verifying your driving privileges and the vehicle registration status through a statewide computer system via Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department Dispatch center.

Q. Why do the police sneak up along the side of my vehicle when making a traffic stop?
A. Police officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic. This approach reduces the likelihood that they will be injured.

Q. Do I have to appear in court after receiving a ticket?
A. No. You may appear in court if you wish to contest the citation. If you do not want to appear in court, you can call the court administrator's office who will advise you of your fine amount and where to send payment. Note: You may be required to appear on misdemeanor offenses. If you have questions, call the Crow Wing County Administrator at 824-1310.


Did You Know?
Some rules of the road…

Carry proper identification. ..
When driving a motor vehicle you must have in your possession: your valid driver's license and proof of current insurance for the vehicle. If you are stopped and you do not have all of these items with you, a citation may be issued. It is the driver's (not the owner's) responsibility to ensure that the vehicle being driven is insured and that the proper documents are in the vehicle. It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the person driving the vehicle possesses a valid driver's license.

Monitor occupants…

As the driver, you are responsible for the conduct of all the occupants of the vehicle. This covers such things as passengers throwing trash out of a window, hanging their arms or legs out of a window, or acting in a disorderly manner. As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts, and that children are properly secured.