Getting out of minor traffic violations: What can you say that usually works?

Recently a friend did a U-turn 30-40 feet before the markings on the road allowed the U-turn (the road had solid yellow lines in the location where she turned). She was driving her kid to school at the time.

A police officer stopped her and was about to give her a ticket. He asked her what happened and when the answer wasn’t satisfactory he said something like “Come on, I’m trying to help you here”. I believe he was trying to get her to say something so he doesn’t have to write her a ticket, and just let her off with a warning. In the end, she got a ticket.

So, in these sorts of situations (minor traffic violations), what sorts of things can you say that are effective in usually getting you out of a ticket
[li]“I didn’t notice the signs, sorry” (but the cop can think that you’re not a careful driver)[/li][li]“I’m in a hurry to take my kid to school and we’re late” (but the cop can think this is no excuse for traffic violations)[/li][li]Other?[/li][/ul]

Cop a guilty plea. Be contrite and respectful. Offer a compelling reason but admit it’s not an excuse. Promise to obey the law in the future.

Works for me 3 out of 4 times.

Another trick is to ask for directions. Police officers are trained to help and it is in their nature.

Example: I’m sorry officer, I am all turned around, I thought this was the way to Applebees, but I think I went right past it. Do you know where I’d have to go? (Officer answers) Thank you officer, and I understand if you have to give me a ticket.

Naaaw, not this time, but you better pay more attention!

Be contrite and apologetic, as already mentioned.

(Definitely not the Jeff Foxworthy thing, telling the cop to kiss your ass and not even removing the marlboro from your lips first.)

Well you see officer, I was…just…oh…I’m sorry it’s just that, you have the most strikingly (insert appropraite color) eyes I’ve seen in a long time. Is that natural or are you wearing colored contacts?

I’ve only ever been let off once. An oncoming cop busted me doing 75 on a rural 55 highway. I saw his taillights in my rearview and I just pulled over and waited. I was stopped before his flashy lights ever came on. Told him I was just running a little late, I knew I was speeding but observed I was being all the more vigilant–I saw him the instant he was visible dontchaknow and then just shut up and handed over my papers. He reminded me how much time is actually saved in a 10-mile journey at 20 mph over the limit (significantly less time than I had just spent parked on the side of the road) and asked me to work on my time management.

The one time it happened to me (I had missed a “Do not enter” sign and went the wrong way down a one-way street*), I truly didn’t know why he had stopped me, so my reaction was genuine. When he told me, I was surprised to hear I what I had done and showed I was mad at myself for missing it. I made no excuses and gave no explanation but just waited for him to write up the ticket.

It helped that I had a clean driving record and was nearly 60. It also was a day when the traffic was a mess.

He let me off with a warning, blaming the confusion caused by the traffic. I made sure to thank him.

There were two other times, but in one case I doubt I had broken any traffic laws (he said I had been in the left turn lane too long**) and the other was a stop that was going to be a warning to begin with.

In all cases, I listened to the cop calmly and quietly, answered his questions, and didn’t argue or ask for special treatment.

*I realized later that a van had blocked my view of the sign.

**I think he decided at the last minute to make a left turn and found me coming up in the lane. After he let me off, I asked him how far from the intersection I can get into the left turn lane, but he didn’t answer.

This. Take responsibility and apologize, and be respectful (but don’t kiss the cop’s ass). And when it doesn’t work, the same attitude sometimes helps in front of the traffic court judge.

I’ll mention it a third time. Also of note:

-do not do anything to make the officer think his safety might be in jeopardy. The more comfortable he is, the better off you will be.

When stopping, pull as far away from the driving lanes as you can without getting stuck. The officer will appreciate having as much room as you can give him between his ass and the driving lane behind him, and it will demonstrate that you have an awareness of road safety issues. Traffic stops are dangerous for cops not just because of the person being stopped, but because of idiots driving by who slam into them with maddening regularity. Some officers will preemptively remove you from your vehicle - not just to get a closer look at you, but to get both of you away from those kinds of wrecks.

If it’s dark out, turn on your dome light as you stop so he can see clearly into your vehicle. Keep both hands on the steering wheel unless you’re reaching for something the officer has requested.

Before reaching into an out-of-view location for any document the officer has requested, inform him of its location and ask for permission to reach for it. Example: “My license is in my back pocket, do you mind if I reach for it?” “My registration and proof of insurance are in the glovebox, do you mind if I reach for them?” When you reach, try to avoid blocking his view of what your hand is doing. If there is a weapon near where you will be reaching, inform the officer first and then follow his instructions exactly; if he suddenly notices the weapon with your hand next to it, he’s liable to get real excited real fast, and you may get hurt. After you hand him the document, put both hands back on the steering wheel.

If you’re standing outside of your vehicle with the officer, stand still and keep your hands folded in front of you. Don’t wander around, don’t wobble; you raise suspicion about your intent, and at the very least you look like you’re not taking the encounter seriously.

If you didn’t commit the offense he accuses you of, feel free to deny it in a firm-but-polite manner. Vigorous or angry denials won’t get you anywhere, and may put the officer in a bad mood; if the cop is wrong but insists on citing you, you’ll need to sort it out in traffic court. If you intend to go to court, take detailed notes as soon as you can after the traffic stop is over; read as much as you can on the legal concept of “present recollection refreshed.” Having said all that, be prepared not to win in court, particularly if it’s nothing more than his word against yours.

If you did commit the offense, you shouldn’t lie about it during the stop (or in court), but you need not confess to it, either. If the officer is fishing for an admission of guilt - “do you know how fast you were going?” - you can respond with “I really couldn’t say.” If he starts out with “I clocked you at 80 in a 65,” then the nature or extent of your infraction is not up for discussion, and an honest apology is probably your best bet. What he does after that is going to be determined by your driving history (which he will look up once he gets your driver license) and the sum of your behavior during the encounter so far.

I’ve had two traffic stops in the past six years in which I believe these sorts of things got me through without any citation. Both were on my motorcycle, on the highway. When the officer walked up on my right side, the first thing I said was, “do you mind if I dismount so we can both move away from the traffic lanes?” In both cases the officer said yes. I dismounted, walked ten feet down the bank, planted my feet and clasped my hands together in front of me, and stood facing oncoming traffic so I could watch for incoming vehicles:

-first case was 80 in a 65, and that was the officer’s opening line. Not much I could do except apologize. With his permission I reached into my pocket for my license, and into my bike’s glovebox for the registration. He went back to his patrol car and sat in there for a good five minutes dealing with his radio, computer, and pen. I stood in the same spot, still watching upstream for cars that might hit us. When he came back out, he handed me a written warning and sent me on my way.

-second case was for me swerving in front of a vehicle in the passing lane. Asshole was driving there for no reason, and after riding behind him for considerable distance I got frustrated, gunned it, swerved in to the driving lane, passed him, and then swerved back into the passing lane right in front of him. Surprise, there was a motor cop a tenth of a mile behind me who saw it all go down, and he pulled me over. He asked why I did what I did, and I told him the truth: I was frustrated by this guy driving in the left lane, I let it get to me, and it was a stupid thing to do. I handed over license and registration (again, retrieved from their hiding places with his permission), and stayed planted in one spot while he walked back to his bike; after he checked my record, he let me on my way.

Do you know who I am?


Do you know that I pay your salary?
Well, they haven’t worked yet but I haven’t given up trying.

What worked for my father (but won’t work for most people) is having the officer recognize him. My father taught legal classes to many local and state police officers and often was greeted with, “Hello, Professor.” Except for the one time when the officer apologized, because he said the ticket was already in the computer and couldn’t be canceled.

I had a similar experience shortly after I got my license. I made a right turn at an intersection and, busy watching out for pedestrians, didn’t see the no right turn sign. I was so genuinely surprised that he let me off with a warning.

I was stopped for doing 70 in a 55 zone. I was happily driving with traffic; everyone else saw the cop and I didn’t. He asked if I knew why he stopped me, and I politely said, yes I was speeding, I’m sorry. He seemed surprised by my response and replied “well, then I’ll have to give you a ticket.” I definitely had the feeling that if I’d said no and then expressed dismay and apologized when he told me how fast I was going, I would have had a better chance of only a warning.

So own up to the infraction when confronted, but don’t offer that you willingly were doing something you knew was wrong.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”


Don’t make excuses. Excuses are just polite little lies. Say you are sorry and be cooperative.

After that, a lot depends upon what comes up on your driving record when the cop runs your plate and license.

I haven’t been stopped in years even though I drive an over-powered muscle car. I am sure that most of the local cops have ran my plate. I am not sure how far back a driving records search goes, I paid to have one done the last time I was looking for a job and it was spotless. Even if they could go back 40 years the result would be the same.

One time many years ago I got stopped for speeding in an old VW bug. A friend in the back seat started to talk back to the cop. I turned around and told him to shut up, this was my ticket. I didn’t get one.

That buys you a little goodwill and possibly a warning. If you have a lot of stupid little shit on your record, you are probably getting one more.

[quote=“Machine_Elf, post:8, topic:680670”]

If there is a weapon near where you will be reaching, inform the officer first and then follow his instructions exactly; if he suddenly notices the weapon with your hand next to it, he’s liable to get real excited real fast, and you may get hurt.

Well, I’d say if there’s a weapon near where you could be reaching for something, telling him or her about it should probably be the first thing out of either one of your mouths (OK, put “Hello Officer” first). Your average cop will get real excited real fast if there’s a weapon on the front seat even if you aren’t reaching for it yet. And they’d rather know about the gun in the glovebox sooner rather than later, too.

Although I am currently not in a position in which I write tickets, I have been in the past and I’m sure I will be in the future.

It is a lot easier to talk yourself into a ticket than it is to talk yourself out of it. There were times when I was just out performing my regular duties when I observed I violation. There were other times in which I was sent to do a specific traffic detail due to citizen complaints or other problems brought to the attention of the administration. If it was the former you would have a very good chance to go away with a warning. If it was the later you had a much greater chance of getting a ticket. Not much you can do about that. If you are shitty towards me you are 100% of the time getting a ticket.

So be polite and respectful. That’s how I will be treating you. No need to confess or apologize but don’t lie. That’s the best advice I have on the subject.

Here in Peru.

Two things that always work.

  1. If I get the feeling the cop’s angling for a bribe, I go “if you think I’ve broken a traffic violation you should give me a ticket, I’d rather you didn’t, but you have to carry on with your duty”. Never gotten a ticket with that line.

  2. If I don’t get the bribe vibe I’ll go full apologies"I’m an idiot, I’m sorry". Always works except for the time I parked next to the “No parking” sign. Cop gave me a ticket for a less serious thing.

  1. Above all, observe the master-subservient relationship. Stop just short of groveling, but be downcast and apologetic, Say “officer” and “sir” a lot.

  2. Have your license, insurance, and registration ready before the cop gets to your car. Nothing makes our knights on motorcycles jumpier than a person reaching into some unseen part of the vehicle. Multiply the previous warning by thirty if you’re black.

  3. When you’re pulled over, don’t just duck to the side of the road. Slow way down to acknowledge that you are being pulled over, but only come to a stop after you’ve gotten to a safe location. I’ve gone over 100 yards on a busy street just so I could pull into a parking lot or side street, then come to a stop. I think the cop appreciated it that he wasn’t going to have his butt sticking out into traffic when he talked to me.

  4. If you really, truly have no idea why you’re being pulled over, make that the first thing you say: “I’m sorry, officer, why did you pull me over?” Then explain why you might not have realized that you were violating the law. Do NOT use this tactic if you are fully aware of what you were doing wrong as it will just look like weaseling.

  5. Create the impression in your master’s mind that what you did wrong was an aberration, an act that you have never committed in the past and will be doubly sure, thanks to his helpful warning, to never again commit in the future. (You don’t need to give me a ticket; my tears of contrition should be enough to demonstrate that I will never do this again.)

My track record over the last ten years or so is that I’ve talked myself out of at least ten tickets, and only gotten nailed once: when I got pulled over for driving atop some light rail tracks. The first thing the cop said when he got to my car was, “Don’t tell me you don’t know it’s illegal to drive on the tracks.” He was belligerent and confrontational from the start, and I responded in kind. I told him that I had never been in that part of the city before and furthermore, I hadn’t seen any signs prohibiting being on the tracks (I checked later; there weren’t any). I suppose that if I had kissed his ass, I might have gotten off with a warning. $150 later, I thought that I probably should have. I felt that the cop was being an asshole and didn’t feel like petting him to get out of a ticket. The fact that he was being a jerkface because his wife wasn’t giving him any or he hadn’t gotten the vacay time he wanted or whatever was perhaps unfair, but in life, you sometimes should kowtow. So above all, respect the cop’s authority and be subservient.

Don’t say anything at all. The more you talk, the more they have to bust you on.

COP: Do you know why I pulled you over?
DRIVER: Um, I was speeding?

= You just incriminated yourself.

COP: Do you know why I pulled you over?
DRIVER: I’m going to exercise my 5th-Amendment right to remain silent.

= Much better response.

My experience is the opposite - the cop who pulled me over wanted me to pull over in the right lane of a two lane road, and was pissed off that I had pulled off into a subdivision. YMMV.