Monthly Archives: October 2014

8 Ways to Lower the Odds of Being Ticketed When Police Pull You Over

traffic-stop-police image www.policesearch (1)

Ever since I was in high school, police officers of various jurisdictions have made a hobby of pulling me over. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Of course I do. But since I became an attorney 23 years ago, I’ve represented hundreds of people for traffic violations in Michigan. When people hear that I do “car cases,” they think of me when they get tickets while driving cars. Along the way, I’ve spoken to countless law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges and can tell you that there are a number of simple things you can do to help you either avoid getting a ticket altogether or lessen the legal harm of the ticket itself.

READ MORE: 50 States of Speed – The laws and limits for every state in the U.S.

Note that I’m not addressing how to fight the ticket itself—that’s a topic for another day. Nor am I talking about occasions in which you get pulled over wrongfully. This advice pertains specifically to incidents in which you actually did something to deserve a ticket.

Here’s how you deal with it.

1. When the flashing lights come on, pull over to the side of the road as soon as you safely can. Then, pull off to the side as far as you can so that the officer, f possible, can approach your car without having to walk in the lane of traffic. Shut your engine off. It’s important that you picture the stop from an officer’s point of view. While you do not enjoy this transaction, in most instances, neither does the police officer. They get shot in situations like this and have no idea if you’re a drug-smuggling, gun-running, one-man crime wave or simply a middle-aged attorney who writes articles on what to do when you’re pulled over by a police officer.

2. Immediately roll your window down all the way. Not halfway, not an inch so you can speak through the crack. All the way. Among other things, it will show that you have nothing to hide.

3. If it’s not broad daylight out, immediately turn on your overhead interior light. This lets the officer see if there are people in the back seat, in the passenger seat and, most importantly, you—before he or she gets to the car. You want to put law enforcement at ease as quickly as possible. Police officers notice these things.

4. Put your hands on your steering wheel at 10 and 2. Ideally, the officer will be able to see your hands while standing at the rear bumper of your car.

5. Do not move, do not look around, do not start digging for your paperwork. Once you’ve completed steps one through four above, DO NOTHING ELSE. Leave your license and registration where they are, because getting them in any manner that gets your body moving may make the officer think you’re hiding something or reaching for something dangerous, and neither of those are good. Another reason is that I and others I have spoken with have had law enforcement officers make a comment at this point and then leave. “Did you know your license plate is hanging off with only one screw?” I’ve also had an officer let me slide: “You ran a red light back there. Pay attention. Good night.”

6. Confess nothing. The officer will approach and most likely ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This is the only piece of advice I will give you with which police officers will disagree, with but you’ll see why. I advise you to not confess. You ran a red light? You were speeding? My advice is to politely say, “No, I’m sorry I don’t,” and leave it at that. Some people will suggest you ought to say, “Yes, I ran that red light,” but I don’t know if “honesty” is going to help you any here. I do know that many officers will make a note on the ticket, “Driver admitted he/she ran the red light,” and that statement will come back to haunt you later.

7. If the officer asks for your license and registration, explain exactly how you will retrieve them. “I am going to reach into my back pocket and pull out my wallet.” “I need to reach into my glovebox to find my registration,” and so on. Even if you have made nice-talk with the officer, he or she will remain wary of you reaching underneath yourself or into a dark spot in the car. Announcing your intentions, again, shows that you’re doing what you can to put them at ease.

8. If and when the officer leaves to run your information through the system, sit in your car with your hands on the wheel, leave the interior light on, and do nothing else. Do not make phone calls or fiddle with your infotainment center. Do not reorganize your glovebox. Do not decide it is a good time to clean out the loose change under your seat. While the officer may have already made the decision on writing or not writing the ticket, it can only hurt you if you act suspiciously at this point.

Why would doing any of the steps I describe help you avoid a ticket? Police officers have discretion on whether they write a ticket and for what. As we know, an officer COULD decide to throw the book at you and write you up for all kinds of stuff. Or, decide to let you go with a warning. Anything you can do to make the officer’s job easier will help nudge the officer in the direction of being lenient. Instead of reckless driving, perhaps you’ll be written for careless. Instead of 20 over, maybe 10.

9. If the officer comes back with a ticket, don’t argue. Take the ticket, say thank you, and move on. Do not declare, “I’ll see you in court!” Signal that you’re going re-enter the roadway, do so safely, and go about your business. One of the overriding themes of this and everything that preceded it is that you want to make this traffic stop ordinary. You don’t want the officer to remember you. If you decide to fight the ticket, with or without an attorney, you may seek a plea deal of some sort. The officer will likely be consulted.

An officer may be in court on a particular day with a stack of tickets. They probably can’t all be tried due to time constraints. Some will get deals, some won’t. You know who gets those deals? The harmless tickets where the driver did nothing to stick out in the officer’s mind.

I’ve been to numerous pretrial conferences in which the prosecutor asked the officer if we could cut a deal. The officer looked at the ticket to remember who the person was and then turned the ticket over to see if there were any comments on the back. Comments about the driver swearing at them, talking on a cellphone during the stop, and so on. No comments is good. Even better is when the officer looks puzzled, clearly doesn’t remember the stop, and agrees to a deal. I’ve also seen officers turn the ticket over and get a look of recognition. “Oh, I remember this guy . . .” and then my job just got harder.

traffic-stop-police image www.policesearch (2)
The danger with the totalitarian management style is that people won’t speak up when there’s a problem. They’ll get their heads cut off or the messenger gets shot.

Of course, when I saw it for the first time, at the Detroit auto show, I thought it was a joke. How could a group of people who call themselves automotive professionals do something that bad?

READ MORE: More traffic-ticket-avoidance tips

To summarize: When pulled over by a police officer

  • Pull over quickly and as far as safely possible
  • Roll down your window completely
  • Turn on your overhead interior light
  • Put your hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2
  • Do not admit that you broke the law
  • If asked for license and papers, announce your movements beforehand
  • Sit still while waiting for the officer to return
  • Do not say anything remarkable to the officer at the end of the stop

I’m not saying every ticket written was righteous. I’m also not saying that the foregoing will protect you if your backseat is filled with sawed-off shotguns and bundles of counterfeit currency sitting in plain view. I’m not a magician, Jim. Just an old country lawyer. But if you get pulled over in a run-of-the-mill traffic stop, following this advice will lessen the odds of your being ticketed and, if you still get the ticket, increase the odds that you can get some slack cut on it later should you decide to fight it in court.

READ MORE: Washington police bust left-lane squatters (Video)

Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, specializing in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible. He also wrote Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation and The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device. He urges you to consult with an attorney in your state should you have further legal questions. Follow Steve on Twitter at @stevelehto.

Originally published at Road & Track.

Henry Sapiecha

Q&A: Wrong speedo reading

quiz-yes-no buttons image


I have a Toyota Tazz (Corolla) 2005 model and when I’m driving at 60km/h my speedometer is showing 120km/h. What could be the problem?…George

eyeball moves image


Wayne, if your car is badged as a Tazz, then it is obviously a imported model from the Japanese market and it could have been damaged and repaired before being shipped here. Unless you have dramatically changed the size of your wheels (which is physically impossible because you would have to reduce them to at least a 10-inch wheel to double the reading), altered the final drive or gearbox ratios, then it is most likely something this dramatic would be a result of an issue at the speed sensor/sender or the speedo head unit itself. Have your local mechanic take a look for you or get an instrument repairer that should be able to fix the problem and make sure the speedo is calibrated correctly once the problem is rectified.

Henry Sapiecha

Police defend speeding policy in fining people for minor speed infringements

Police have defended their focus on low-level speeding radar gun use image

Police have defended their focus on low-level speeding

New South Wales and Victoria police have hit back at claims by Mazda Australia boss Martin Benders that the focus on speeding has created a nation of distracted drivers.

Speaking at a press event in Japan this week Benders said he believes Australian drivers have become too focused on not speeding at the detriment of driving standards.

Benders, who spent six years working in Mazda’s operations in Japan and Europe, believes that the Australian law enforcement’s decision to focus so heavily on low-level speeding has contributed to a significant drop in driving standards.

“I have to say, having been away six years, I’m amazed how bad the driving has gotten in Australia in terms of a focus on not going 1km/h over – it’s just shocking,” Benders said at a press conference in Japan. “And yet we’ve got the police standing up saying ‘we can’t have distracted drivers’ – we’ve got nothing but distracted drivers. They are so focused on whether they are 1km/h out on the speed limit or not, it’s shocking. It is a real problem in Australia.”


Masashi Otskua, project leader on the CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs, said he was surprised by the strict nature of Australian police about speeding during his fact-finding visits here.

“Before I went to Australia I thought Australians would be very tolerant,” Otsuka said. “That was not the case.”

But police in both NSW and Victoria are adamant that their focus on speeding is necessary to cut the road toll.

“Speed is a major killer on our roads,” Victorian Roads Policing Superintendent Neville Taylor told Fairfax Media.

“Research shows that you are more likely to collide with another car, hit a pedestrian or run off the road if you exceed the speed limit.

“This is why maximum speed limits exist and police will be enforcing them. If you are travelling above the posted speed limit, you can expect to be stopped by police.

“You may not think that a few kilometres extra will make a big difference but research shows that it does. We are trying to change the culture and make all speeding socially unacceptable, the way we did with drink driving and not wearing seatbelts.”

New South Wales police directed Fairfax to recent road safety data from Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics that showed a 25 per cent drop in road deaths between 2004 and 2013.

Henry Sapiecha

Q&A: Point to point speed cameras in Australia

quiz-yes-no buttons image


Do point to point speed cameras check cars and motorbikes in Queensland?

eyeball moves image


Yes they do, only in NSW are point to point speed cameras used to check heavy vehicles only. Point to point speed cameras use number plate recognition technology. The technology uses optical character recognition software to locate and read number plates from dedicated Infra Red cameras. The cameras are aimed at the numberplate region on the back of vehicles and are triggered by vehicles passing over a loop detector, similar to those used with the fixed speed and red light cameras. The cameras measure the amount of time it takes a vehicle to drive between two points and then calculates the average speed of the vehicle. If the vehicle’s average speed is higher than the speed limit for the length of road, the driver will be booked for speeding.

Henry Sapiecha

New radar mobile phone gun to catch texting drivers to be in the hands of police

next-generation radar gun could show police if drivers are using mobile phones. image

A next-generation radar gun could show police if drivers are using mobile phones.

Police could soon be equipped with a hand-held device to catch drivers using their phone behind the wheel.

The US-based Virginian Pilot newspaper reports that a small tech firm is blending electronic cable repair technology with police equipment to create a new tool for law enforcement.

ComSonics, which works to calibrate radar guns and other police equipment, says its technology is “close to production”.

Based around sensors used to detect radio emissions leaking from damaged electronic cables, the device could show police which cars are actively using mobile phone data.

The company says there are no real privacy concerns surrounding its proposal as the device cannot decode information such as text messages.

texting phone in hand image

But there could be practical hurdles surrounding such a device.

ComSonics presented its technology at a distracted driving summit in Virginia, where it told delegates that there were several hurdles to clear surrounding use of the technology.

It’s not clear whether it would be able to reveal whether a driver or passenger is using a phone, or whether drivers are using phones legally, through Bluetooth or dock-based systems.

Colorado-based entrepreneur Scott Tibbits has proposed a different solution.

His company, Katasi, has developed a system that will lock incoming calls or text messages to mobile phones while cars are on the move. The system involves a small black box that connects to a car’s onboard diagnostics port before blocking incoming mobile traffic to the driver’s handset.

Passengers are free to use phones as the system can learn a family’s patterns and movements before deducing who is driving the car – such as a teenager driving home from school – while using GPS sensors to check if a phone is moving or stationary.

Police in NSW fine around 1000 drivers each week for mobile phone use. Transport for NSW statistics suggest that four people were killed and 66 injured between 2006 and 2010 as a result of drivers using mobile phones.

Henry Sapiecha





A record spike in drivers intentionally altering their plates has prompted a dramatic fine increase.

West Australians who deliberately obscure their number plates risk a $1000 fine, up from the current $50 penalty.

Acting police minister John Day said on Sunday that a record spike in drivers intentionally altering their plates had prompted the dramatic fine increase.

Mr Day said the most likely reason for the spike was hoon drivers trying to prevent detection from speed and red-light cameras.

“They could also have outstanding warrants, not have a licence or be part of an organised crime syndicate and want to deliberately avoid detection,” Mr Day said.

Mr Day said drivers were installing flipping mechanisms, remote controlled shutters, using protective films and bending the corners of plates to avoid getting caught.

Opposition spokeswoman for police Michelle Roberts said while she welcomed the fine, the government had been slow to introduce a meaningful deterrent for a problem raised years ago.

A spokeswoman for Mr Day said the fine had been implemented since September 26 as part of a raft of penalty changes.

She said the government would start to receive information on how many people had been fined in about a month.

It seems that the latest number plate reading devices have instigated a concern that number plate reading by police would be difficult if number plates were distorted in some way.

There goes big brother sitting in an arm chair getting fat on revenue raising & picking on motorists via remote cameras so the system can send fines to you in the mail for whatever reason they invent that sounds like it has justifiable community merit

Refer our earlier article on number plate reading devices.

Henry Sapiecha


The Reykjavík metropolitan police department’s official Instagram account is hilarious

Goofing around A screengrab of the Police department’s Instagram page image

Goofing around: A screengrab of the Police department’s Instagram page. Source: Supplied

THERE’S having fun on the job and then there is this.

Reykjavik’s metropolitan police department has become a viral sensation with their Instagram account, gaining more than 82,000 followers online.

And why wouldn’t you follow a police force whose days seem to consist of taking goofy selfies, hitting the gym, scoring a hipster cup of coffee or getting around on bikes?

There’s even a Baywatch style #DavidHasselhoff shot, there are kittens featured, and the occasional reflective music clip thrown in. Maybe the Australian Federal Police could take a leaf out of their book?

Take a look at the rest of them here.

Henry Sapiecha



Traffic cops on the job