It happens to almost everyone -- you're driving along, thinking about work, your family or just listening to music, and you notice the blue lights behind you. Your heart skips a beat, but once you regain your composure you slow down and pull over. What do you do next?
A. The Stop. Once you pull over you should remain in your car with your hands on the steering wheel. Do NOT get out of your car as that is threatening to the officer. Simply wait for the officer to approach you.
The officer will approach your car on the driver's side. If you have a permit and a lawful weapon in your car, this is the time to tell the officer that and to tell him/her where it is located. Most likely you will be asked to produce your driver's license and registration. You should always keep these in an easily accessible place and you should politely hand them to the officer. In most cases the officer will take them back to his car to verify that they're valid and then they will be returned to you.
When the officer returns with your license and registration you will likely be asked "Do you know why I pulled you?" or "Do you know how fast you were going?". Your answer to this should be "NO". This is the correct answer for two reasons: (1) it's the truth since only the officer knows why you were pulled; and (2) it keeps you from making an admission which could later be used against you in court. You should politely listen to the officer but make little or no comment.
If you're pulled over you should expect to receive a ticket. In most circumstances a warning ticket or a verbal warning will not be given. Remember, the State of North Carolina is broke and court costs are an excellent source of revenue! No matter what they may tell you, officers are under pressure to write tickets. Also, crying, begging, arguing, etc. does virtually nothing for you except to give the officer something to laugh about with his or her buddies later. Arguing with the officer or being rude will also hurt you later because the officers now make notes on the citations on the side of the road. When I go to court for a client on a traffic violation the first thing I do is look at the original ticket in the court file to see what the comments are. If I see "Polite and cooperative" then I know I'm going to have a good day. If I see "Called me a jerk" or "Asked me if I was making my quota" then my heart sinks because the client has done me in before I even get started. Remember that before a prosecutor will reduce a ticket the officer will be asked if he or she agrees with the reduction. If the officer says no then it won't happen.
B. What do I do next? In most cases involving minor traffic violations the officer will explain that you can simply pay the ticket by mail. DO NOT DO THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! Call an experienced traffic or criminal lawyer instead. The call is free and it could save you a lot of money later on as you'll see below.
When you call an experienced traffic or criminal lawyer you should expect to first speak with a secretary or paralegal. You will be asked some background questions and to fax or email your ticket to the lawyer's office.