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The Do's & Don'ts of Being Pulled Over in New York State

Everyone who drives anywhere shares one common concern: the dreaded flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. Maybe you’ve been driving along, singing with the radio and those colorful lights just popped up out of nowhere. Or maybe you’ve had a couple of drinks at happy hour and are now on your way home. Regardless of the circumstances, there are certain things you should be thinking about once those lights start flashing. Here are some tips to make your conversation with the officer as smooth as possible.

Do: Pull over as safely and as soon as possible.

You’ll want to pull over in a safe spot where neither you or the office will be in danger of oncoming traffic. Pull over as far as you can so the office can walk safely from his vehicle to yours. Make sure that you use your turn signal and don’t drive erratically – everything you do is being noted by the officer. Once you’ve pulled over be sure to put your flashers on (especially after dark), turn the ignition off, and turn your interior or dome light on.

Don’t: Search for your documents before they’re asked for.

You may think you’re being helpful and prepared by having your documents waiting for the officer when he or she approaches your window… but the officer can only see your silhouette and this doesn’t tell them what you’re actually doing in your car. Keep your hands on the wheel at ten and two where they can be seen. Make sure you keep the documents most likely to be requested (current insurance card and proof of registration) in a single space so you don’t need to rummage for them.

Do: Roll your window down all the way.

Be sure to roll your window down the entire way so that the officer can speak with you clearly.Avoid sudden movements and be sure to stay in your car. Exiting the car for any reason without being asked will raise the officer’s level of concern for your conduct. Sit and wait patiently unless there is an emergency.

Don’t: Be a jerk.

As Mom says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Be polite. Answer with short concise answers and speak only when spoken to Lying to the officer is never advised either – they will most likely be able to tell and this won’t help you in any way. By minding your manners, you may very well leave with a warning and a ‘good afternoon’.

Do: Contact a lawyer ASAP, especially in the case of a DWI.

Even in the case of a simple traffic ticket, a defense attorney may very well help you avoid points on your license and a rise in your insurance. If your experience was a little more complicated than that (as in a DWI), you’ll want to hire an experienced DWI lawyer to defend you. Be sure to tell them everything you remember including what you were doing and where you were before you drove, how much you had to drink, how long after you were arrested, how the officer behaved and the instructions they gave, what you said to the officer, and where you were pulled over. These details will help to evaluate your case and may strengthen any defense you have to the charge.

Don’t: Lose the ticket.

At the end of your conversation with the officer, if he or she does issue you a traffic ticket, be sure not to lose it. This ticket contains all the information you or your attorney needs including the violation(s), date, court, county/city, and the issuing officer’s name. Once a ticket is lost, it will most likely have to be tracked down over the phone or in person if you can remember the jurisdiction you received it in. If your ticket is not responded to by your court date, you face the possibility of having your diving privileges suspended or being automatically convicted of the charges and fined. A suspension of your license or default conviction may cause increased court, DMV, or attorney’s fees. In the end, it’s easier to avoid this mess than have to clean it up so hold onto that ticket.

In any situation, being pulled over can be stressful, scary, and will make your heart pump a little faster. By following the do’s and don’ts above, we hope that your experience is smooth and easy and that you’ll be back on the road in no time. If you have been pulled over, we’d like to help. Please feel free to call us at (315) 215-0517 for a free consultation. You can also complete a contact form here or email us at At Team Green Lawyers, we’re working to give you back your life.