Stage #1 — Citation
Okay, you are pulled over by the side of the road, looking at flashing lights in your rearview mirror, and watching the officer walk up to your car. What do you do? Should you smile? Frown? Argue? Beg? Most of us, even after years of driving and a reasonable share of tickets, still have no idea how to handle the experience.
Remember the language you heard in every cop show you loved as a kid – “anything you say can and will be used against you”? It’s true! The first question the officer asks is frequently: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” If you are like me, you may have to resist the impulse to be sarcastic, but many people will give the officer a confession (admission of guilt) in their very first words: “I may have been going a little fast.” Then, months later, in court, the officer reads back those words, and months later, the court interprets them as a confession.
There is no right answer to the officer’s question, but there are about a million wrong answers, and an experienced traffic attorney has heard them all. I am happiest when the client did not say anything – just let the officer do the talking, signed the citation, and promised to appear as ordered. Any kind of explanation, good or bad, ends up getting used against you in court, so it is better to just say “thank you, officer” and go on your way. If you are reading this, then it is probably too late to help you handle the roadside conversation in your current case. But, maybe this information will help you down the road.
One more thing – you must sign the citation when asked. You are not admitting to anything, just promising to appear.