What To Do When The Police Pull You Over

How To -


California Highway Patrol

There you are, minding your own business, doing 10 mph over the speed limit, when Johnny Law pulls out for a bit of revenue gathering. Being the law-abiding citizen that you are, you pull to the side of the road. But, what comes next? This is what to do when the police pull you over.

What You Need To Have With You
License, registration and proof of insurance. For the bike you’re riding and it all needs to be up-to-date and valid. It can be a good idea to keep your documents in a sealed, waterproof bag under your seat where they’ll remain in good condition and where you can’t forget them. Never borrow a friend’s bike or rent one without first making sure you have all the papers and that those papers have the right dates on them.

What You Need To Have On Your Bike
Running illegal modifications can either get you pulled over or get you additional citations once you are pulled over. That’s just dumb. Every state and municipality is going to vary a little bit in its unique vehicle laws, so we can’t provide you a comprehensive guide to what you need in your area but here’s a handy tip — a stock bike is going to be legal. If you plan on modifying yours, don’t change stuff like the exhaust or location of the indicators or number plates.

Because some people can be jerks, license plates, registration stickers and similar can occasionally “go missing.” Bolt your plate on securely and consider using a Torx or other non-common type of fastener to deter theft. Before applying registration stickers, slice them like a pie from corner to corner. Should someone try to peal them off (this happened to a friend outside my house last week), they’ll have a hard time re-applying them all lined up right. Again, that deters theft.

Your Gear and Appearance
Again, what you’re wearing and what you look like can either cause you to be pulled over or exacerbate problems once you are. Make sure your helmet wears its “DOT” sticker prominently on the back. Peeling it off or covering it up with another sticker or custom paint job may result in fines or unwanted police attention.

In my experience, cops also respond well to safety gear. But that response changes with different types of gear. When I’m pulled over in my Aerostich Roadcrafter, I look like an upstanding member of the public and am treated as one. The last time I was pulled over in my race suit, the cops were looking for someone that had been reported crashing earlier in the day. I pointed out how clean my leathers and bike were, to which the sheriff told me, “Slow down,” complete with that stern look only a moustache can convey and a finger in my chest. That finger then pointed at my shagged knee sliders and bobbled tires. I’ve never been pulled while wearing a squid vest or helmet Mohawk or just a t-shirt, but I’d wager those outfits would provoke more severe reactions.

The general idea here is to not only adhere to the letter of the law, but, because we live in a police state, adhere to social norms as well. If you look as if you’re toeing the line and were just doing a bit of mundane speeding, the consequences of a cop interaction are going to be less than if you look like you’re in the business of transporting drugs across a state line or you are on your way to negotiate a venue for an illegal dog fight. As sad as it is to think about, your “disguise” is important on today’s roads.

What To Do When You’re First Pulled Over
Traffic stops are risky events for police officers. And, if you’re pulled over by a traffic cop, odds are they hate their job as much as we all hate them. Add to that the risk they face and that many sport motorcyclists run from the m requiring a chase. To top it off, many normal people simply perceive motorcyclists in a negative manner. So, when you’re pulled, remember that the cop is a)scared for his life b)has been shouted at all day and c) likely hates you due to your mode of transportation.

It’s your job to mitigate that as much as possible. As soon as Smokey lights you up, slow down and make sure all your moves are predictable and telegraphed. No shoulder to pull over on at that particular instance? Move to the slow lane, indicate right, wave to the cop, then proceed to the nearest exit or other safe area at 5 mph under the limit.

Once you’re off the road, pull as far away from traffic as possible (it’s incredibly dangerous sitting stationary next to a fast-moving road) and, if you have them, turn on your hazard lights. Kill your engine and turn the key off.

Next, is the most important part of your interaction. Now that you’re sitting on the side of the road with a patrol car behind you, the cop is expecting you to run. He’s looking for any sign that you may be about to. You need to defuse the situation by demonstrating to him that this is not about to happen. Some riders remove the key and drop it on the ground next to the bike. If you do that, make sure the cop sees you do it. I just remove my helmet and place it on the tank in front of me, then place my hands on top of it and sit still.

Do not begin fishing for your license or documents. It is important that the cop understands you are not a threat and are not going to pull out a weapon. It’s also a good idea to stay seated on the bike. Standing up or dismounting can appear threatening.

How To Interact With The Cop
Put away your moral outrage and stick it to the man attitude. The cop is just a guy doing his job. Even if that job sucks. Smile and be polite. Ask the cop how he’s doing. Compliment him on his tight pants, big gun or fast car. Do not allow the interaction to become a conflict.

If your cop is like any that I’ve encountered, he’ll start with the clichéd, “Do you know why I pulled you over, sir?” At this point, you need to decide how you’re going to play this. All the advice I’ve read is to deny all knowledge of any wrong doing, but it just seems like doing so when you’ve blatantly been speeding or breaking some other law is just going to tick off Johnny Law.

Instead, I just admit to whatever it was, if I was doing anything. Awhile ago that was, “Well, I’m going to guess it’s because my bike doesn’t have a license plate, Sir.” Oh yeah, make sure you call them sir or ma’am and defer to them as you would any authority figure.

Admitting to whatever it is you were doing wrong quickly defuses the situation and puts the ball back in the cops’ court. If you have a valid excuse, use it, but don’t make stuff up. If your wife really is in labor, then the cop’s probably going to be pretty cool. If you’re just making that up, he’s going to throw the book at you.

From that point, just listen to the lecture, let them run your paperwork to make sure you’re not a criminal (you don’t have outstanding warrants, right?) and just be agreeable with whatever the cop wants to do with you. There’s nothing else you can do at this point. If they’re going to tow your bike or write you a bunch of trumped up citations, you can’t stop it and arguing will only make it worse.

If you feel you have a legitimate grievance or aren’t guilty of the charges, go home, call your lawyer and deal with it then.

When the cop hands you your license back, smile, thank him for doing a difficult job and ride away in a calm, controlled, legal manner.

What To Do Next
When I first moved to America from London, I was handed a bunch of totally bogus tickets during a surprisingly violent, aggressive encounter with the NYPD. It shook me up badly and I was so ignorant of the American legal system that I simply cleared out my bank account and paid them. I shouldn’t have. It turns out that after the traffic stop, you get to be as nasty to the officer and legal system as you want to be.

It also turns out that the legal system is completely corrupt. Know those lawyers who specialize in traffic tickets? Hire one, they’re great at their job and doing so will end up saving you money, even factoring in their cost. Show up to traffic court yourself and you’re paying whichever fine(s) you came in for. Show up with a lawyer and, except in extreme cases, the judge will automatically reduce your penalty without even listening to a defense. Use a defense and a lawyer and your chances of leaving with no fines at all are pretty good. The entire system is biased in favor of citizens who can afford legal representation. And that representation can be surprisingly cheap to come by.

Regardless of how you handle the legal stuff, make sure you do handle it. If you have a court date, don’t miss it. If you have to pay fines, pay them on time. Just accept that you lost this round and do the adult thing and take care of it. The consequences for failing to do so are far more severe than your original penalty or penalties will be, so just accept them and move on. Maybe learn a lesson about illegal pipes or where it’s OK to speed in the process.

What happened the last time you got pulled over?

  • Archie

    Good article, one of the biggest differences between the US and Australia is the ‘fear for their life’ factor traffic police will have. A couple of years ago I got to have a good chat with a motorcycle cop about those sort of things and he basically summed it up that those that are carrying a gun won’t stop in the first place, so that fear that they’ll surprise you and pull a weapon on your once you’ve stopped them is non-existent. It just doesn’t happen. They’re wary and conscious of the possibility so as not to be unprepared, but not overly concerned.

    Last time I was pulled over I was definitely saved by the “cop it on the shoulder” rule. Bike cop pulled me over for speeding and – as he put it – “quite aggressive riding” on a highway (that equates to 20kph+ over the limit, splitting between people dawdling along in the inside lanes). Admitted everything I was doing, then asked me why I did it. That’s probably THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the entire conversation you’ll have in a traffic stop. You need to know why you’re doing it, and you need to be able to convince the officer you were in control and doing it SAFELY. I gave him my justifications and he sent me on my way with a minimum speeding fine ($75, no points – downgraded from $300, 4 points) and no citations for my “aggressive riding”. We actually discussed that and the legalities of it all meant that the only law I effectively broke was the speed limit – indicate whenever you change lanes, people. It’ll save you your license.

    Moral of the story: If you can’t justify it and can’t prove to yourself or anyone else that you’re still acting safely whilst outside the bounds of traffic law, behave yourself and ride as you’re expected.

    • Archie

      Let me also note that here in Aus we don’t need any sort of documents whatsoever on our person. I carry my driver’s license, my bank card and my phone and that’s it. All the police need is your driver’s license number and your bike’s rego number. If you don’t know your license number and don’t have it on you, they just require you go to the nearest police station within 24 hours to provide those details (or they pretty much hunt you down and shoot you). That said, the more documents you have on your person, the less digging they need to do; especially the bike cops, they have to call everything in since they don’t have all the fancy computer systems like in the patrol cars. Make their lives as easy as possible, receive the smallest possible pineapple up your chuff.

      • Paul Mirtschin

        In NSW you MUST carry your licence on you at all times, a fine can be handed out if you don’t – In QLD that only applies to restricted, other states may vary.

        That said, the HWP that checked me on Sunday just asked if I had it, when I reached towards my tank-bag he just said “Don’t worry, I believe you”.

        • FridaysAreFunDays

          I can top that.

          Our state now issues state ID to illegal-aliens.
          The logic is that they will drive anyway whether they are legal or not.

          So this way we can at least get some identification info on some of them.

          And the other half of course is that some of their relatives are legal voters.

      • FridaysAreFunDays

        You don’t need to carry your license and registration on you while operating a motor vehicle in the USA, either.

        it’s a legal requirement to have it. That doesn’t mean it’s absolutely necessary in order to legally drive a vehicle on the road.

        It’s a minor infraction to not have your registration and license.

        The big issue is whether the vehicle is properly insured and tagged, you are authorized to operate it and whether your license is valid or not.

        Those are far more important concerns then whether you have your paper registration and plastic license on you.
        You can provide any form of ID, the cops will take the VIN# and the tags, check all that and search a warrant, insurance and registration database for alerts and if you and the vehicle come back all clear and the vehicle is registered in your name, write tickets for not having your license and registration and let you go on your way. The tickets aren’t even mandatory as the police do not literally have to cite you for moving-violations.

        The thing that most people seem to either not know or forget about entirely here is that the police can turn a blind eye to crime if they see fit to do so.
        They didn’t pull you over on a whim. Once they have your personal info and do a background check on the road they know what they need to know.

        By the time they come back to you they usually have already decided what they are going to do. All you can do at that point is talk yourself into an even-deeper hole. But that doesn’t mean that you are IN a hole in the first place. That’s up to the cop.

    • IRS4

      My wife and I vacationed from California to Australia for three weeks a few years back. Several people asked us, “So, how many guns do you own?”. Not IF we had guns, but how many. Bit of an eye opener.

    • FridaysAreFunDays

      …another example of making a rule from one example.

      I would never try to rationalize breaking traffic-laws to a cop unless it was a life-or-death situation.

      You might as well just cut-up your license right there and walk home.
      They catch me speeding? Fine. Give me a ticket and let me go.

      Always remember and never forget, everything you say and do can and will be used against you in a court of law.

      • Archie

        You might argue that riding a motorcycle in heavy traffic is indeed a life-or-death situation. In the example I posted, I was stuck between two trucks and a car. The truck I was following was only about half way clear of the one next to us, so I had a truck right in front of me, one alongside me, and a very impatient car driver very close behind me. I gave it a moment’s thought and zipped through the two trucks at more than enough pace to clear them without incident; when I came out from between them, there just happened to be a motorcycle cop in the outside lane to find me doing nearly 30 over the limit. Whoops. Either way, like I said, I discussed the moments leading up to it and he agreed it was a fair call, gave me a basic speeding ticket, shook hands and off we went.

        I accept that laws are blanket and not up for interpretation by those that enforce them, however I also know those men and women are still human and at the end of the day are there to protect the road-going public from themselves as much as one another.

  • Chris Reedy

    I’ve had some luck with basically admitting what I was doing (as long as it was within some tolerance of the social norm) and asking very politely for a warning. Proving to the officer that you’re a normal reasonable person that just happened to do something not that bad and is really sorry about it is the best way in my opinion. The easiest way to avoid having to go to court or deal with an infraction on your record is to avoid getting written up at all which puts the ball squarely in the cops court.

  • Justin McClintock

    All good points. I’ve been fortunate enough to only be pulled over once on the bike. Pretty much outlined what was above….I was polite, had all my documents in a plastic baggie in my tail bag, turned off the bike and got off it promptly and immediately removed my helmet. Probably helped that the “kid” that pulled me over was in his mid 20′s and was probably expecting a teenager underneath that helmet (I was on my DRZSM). 30 year old dude pulls off a helmet, and it’s a different ballgame. Sometimes it pays to be older.

    • SniperSmitty

      +1 to that Justin. I got stopped for after market rear signals. They are l.e.d and he says that I didn’t signal when turning. I actually did, but I know they are hard to see in daytime. Anyway, while he’s talking to me he notices I’m in my late 30′s (grey in the beard) and says “I thought you guys all rode Harley’s” to which I said “Whattya mean ‘you guys’?!?” He says aren’t you a little old for a sport bike? I replied No, cause a Harley is slower 0-60 than a Datsun. We laughed and laughed and he gave me a ticket anyway.
      Only $65 and No points. So I was OK with that.

    • KeithB

      My wife and I have ridden 10s of thousands of KMs and never been pulled over. We don’t always obey the speed limit either.
      Good luck I guess.
      The one time I was pulled over, near home, as soon as I took off the helmet and the cop saw I was a “grey hair” he was cool and no ticket.

  • Strafer

    Recently got 3 tickets during 2 stops in NYC –

    Both times I was waiting in traffic in the middle of a line of cars and a
    police car noticed me and pulled up to me and stared at me for a minute before
    finding an infraction or 2

    One ticket is for having visor up at a stoplight (it fogged up
    due to the weather and not moving)

    the next time I got tickets for dirt on license plate and bent license
    plate (dirt was from some snow remnants and salt on the roads) license plate was
    bent a little bit up so it didn’t catch all the dirt

    As the article says its better to have an all stock bike – the
    smallest excuse will do when they have instructions to crack down you

    I try not to let is dissuade me from riding – in the
    meantime I’m planning on a good disguise -
    either a suit and tie or a pizza delivery jacket and box on the back of
    the bike –

    Also I plan to get some luggage and disguise my supermoto as an adventure bike

    • Piglet2010

      One advantage of living in a state without a lid or eye protection law – no tickets for having a visor up.

      As an aside, any cop who writes a ticket for a visor up at a stop without aggravating circumstances is a poor excuse for a human being.

      • FridaysAreFunDays

        One of my earliest fond memories of motorcycling was riding through New Jersey on my way home at night and catching a small sprig in my eye. A piece of a twig about 2″ long. At 70mph. It went in around the side of my eye almost to the back of my eye-socket.
        I was able to ride through the tears to a nearby hospital where they gently pried and washed it out of my eye and sent me on my way.

        Ever since then I have made a habit of riding with clear safety-glasses under my visor. Tinted ones during the day, clear at night.

        • Piglet2010

          I wear glasses under my lid so I can see clearly with both eyes instead of just one – need to get some prescription wrap-around glasses.

          • FridaysAreFunDays

            …glasses are nice as long as they are impact-resistant. You don’t really want to catch a rock with your visor up and have your glasses shatter into your eyes.

            • Piglet2010

              Any polycarbonate lens will not shatter, even if it not rated for impact resistance. Glass lenses on the other hand are best avoided when riding.

    • socalutilityrider

      Dude, that is outrageous. Don’t they have more pressing things to invest their time in!?

    • Robotribe

      A ticket for “VISOR UP”?! What. The. FUCK.

      NYC, my fondness for you is permanently tarnished.

    • Chief Rocka

      I can attest to this ‘Visor up’ nonsense. I’ve been the recipient of two in NYC over the last 10 years. I went to court both times to unsuccessfully plead my case of defogging my visor at a stop (both times were early morning in fall). As a (mostly) year round rider who prefers to commute on red Ducati’s, I have had a LOT of run-ins with NYC’s finest. I’m also originally from out west and found that the advice in this article works a good amount of the time, EXCEPT in NYC. Don’t get me wrong, I have met the occasional decent NYPD who let me go with a warning but these were extreme cases (i.e. see undercover cop with better things to do then revenue collection). Anyway, after 12 years of constant harassment I’m finally ready to leave you NYC… Cali here I come! Also, I’m in the camp of admitting my wrong doing immediately while being as nice and self deprecating as possible. This has worked more often then not for me.

      • Stuki

        So let me get this straight… In NYC, you are not allowed to open your visor to defog it AT A COMPLETE STOP????

      • IRS4

        I got “waved over” by a parked cop at a stop sign in Massachusetts once while wearing an open face helmet with no visor. When I pulled up next to him he said “Oh, I didn’t see you glasses” and waved me on my way. I guess some kind of eye cover is mandatory in the the North East?

        • Chief Rocka

          That ^. You MUST have some kind of eye cover nyc, whether it be glasses/sunglasses/goggles/visor.

    • Rameses the 2nd

      Just wondering what type of bike do you ride? It could be that they were after sports bikes after the last year Land Rover incident.

  • Piglet2010

    Hire a lawyer, and he will likely call the prosecutor and get your ticket reduced to a non-moving violation. The government gets their fine money, the cop meets his ticket quota, your lawyer gets paid, neither your lawyer or the prosecutor have to do much work, the cop does not need to show up in court, your license is not put in future jeopardy of suspension, and your insurance company cannot raise your rates.

    • Randy Singer

      I’m an attorney, and for a few years I was a Traffic Court judge. What an attorney can do for you varies wildly by state, jurisdiction, and even from attorney to attorney. It is not a universal truth that an attorney can get you off in a traffic court case. It does usually help to have an attorney, because they know the system. An experienced attorney often knows a few tricks that can really help. In some jurisdictions some attorneys are well known to the court and they can usually give you positive, or mostly positive results. In other jurisdictions, if you don’t have a good defense, no attorney is going to be able to help you.

      In most cases I think of getting a traffic ticket as a random tax. The system wants its money, and unless you have an extraordinarily good defense, paying that tax is inevitable. I can tell you that without an attorney it’s almost impossible to present your own case and win in traffic court. Every case that comes down to being the police officer’s word against yours, you will lose. And it’s almost impossible to prove that the police officer is wrong…which is what you have to do. Doing that is difficult even for an attorney.

      My best advice is to stay entirely out of the legal system. You can get away with riding over the limit most of the time if you don’t do things that would attract an officer’s attention. Don’t replace the exhaust system on your bike. Don’t make any changes to the location or visibility of your rear license plate. Don’t ride faster than the fastest driver around you. Don’t wear or do anything that shouts: “Look at me! I’m an immature jerk!”. I’ve heard of riders being let go by a police officer after a stop just because they had comprehensive gear on and their MSF Rider Course sticker on their helmet. Stealth works!

      • James Jamerson

        It’s almost impossible to avoid paying the fine, but you should be able to keep it off your record/insurance as either a non-moving violation or probation-before-judgement.

        • FridaysAreFunDays

          …”should be”? LOL
          The only way that PBJ would even be considered would be if your case was actually *prosecuted* vs simply adjudicated.

          If a prosecutor shows up in court with your driving-record you’d better have a good lawyer if you’re hoping for PBJ.
          Why would a judge downgrade the charge or give you PBJ otherwise?

          They’d be more likely to just dismiss the charge entirely but I don’t see a judge doing that without both a look at your record and either a clear lack of supporting evidence or mitigating circumstances. You’re not going to get out of the charge for no good reason.

          • James Jamerson

            Here in MD I’ve gotten PBJ for 4/4 speeding tickets. If you take the time to dress nicely and show up to court (most of the people in court are in jeans and a tshirt) that goes a long way, as does a simple “I’m sorry sir, [reason] but now realize that that doesn’t excuse my speeding.” Then you throw in “I’ve already paid the fine, but I have to [drive for my job/other reason], so I was wondering if there was a way I could keep this off my record” and bam, PBJ. Traffic court is nothing like real court.

            The jaded side of me says the judges do it so that people keep coming to court and they keep their job. If traffic court was just a 3 hour waste of time to still pay your ticket nobody would go. If it was a 3 hour waste of time that might save you money / a record… they have hours to work.

            • Piglet2010

              Probation before judgment or peanut butter and jelly?

      • Piglet2010

        The combination of a textile riding suit and European touring bike does help in avoiding being bothered by Five-O.

        But my point is, do prosecutors really want to try cases of simple speeding if they still get to collect a fine? Most often not.

        • Send Margaritas

          My FJR is more of a European touring bike than your Bonneville, and it is from Japan! Why would Five-O care if you’re wearing a ‘textile riding suit’? I’ve a friend who is a cop, it’s more attitude and body language.

          • Piglet2010

            My NT700V Deauville is built by Montesa-Honda SA in Barcelona, which makes it more of a European touring bike than your FJR.

            Wearing track leathers gives the impression you are a hooligan, while just a wife-beater implies you are a cretinous fool. A Roadcrafter, Alpinestars Durban, etc imply that you are a serious, safety conscious rider.

        • Randy Singer

          In California (and in other jurisdictions, I understand), traffic cases, while still technically a criminal matter, have been downgraded to be what is known as an “infraction.” With that downgrading, the legislature has taken away your right to a jury trial, and the right to a court appointed attorney.

          So, do the courts want to try such cases? Sure they do! All that such cases require is a judge and a clerk. No prosecutor need show up. Sometimes they don’t even use a regular judge, instead they use a “commissioner” or a “judge pro tem.” Your trial is quick, inexpensive (for the state), and the fines these days can be shockingly high. Traffic Court is an efficient mill for making lots of money.

          In bad economic times, local governments have to make up for the money that is no longer coming in from taxes on folks who are well employed. How do you think that they make up for that money?

          • Piglet2010

            So California has become a police state that denies the accused the right to a fair trial – what a surprise (not).

            In Illinois, I received a speeding ticket (even though I was not speeding), and my lawyer got the prosecutor to settle for a non-moving violation to avoid going to a jury trial.

            • Randy Singer

              >> So California has become a police state that denies the accused the right to a fair trial – what a surprise (not).

              No, I didn’t say anything like that. You still have a right to a fair trial. That trial has been streamlined and is no longer handled on the same level as a serious criminal trial. All of the technical loopholes have been closed, but you can still present your case and you will be found not guilty if you present a case that merits it. The thing is, how many of the folks that police ticket weren’t really breaking the law? Lots of folks are hoping that they can act like someone in a television police drama and use some mythical loophole to get their traffic ticket thrown out. But television isn’t real life. And obscure technicalities have nothing to do with getting “a fair trial.”

              • Piglet2010

                Being denied the right to a trial by your peers and the denial of legal representation is a denial of a fair trial.

                • Randy Singer

                  Not when the matter is as insignificant as a minor traffic matter. You aren’t guaranteed a jury trial and a free attorney for every legal matter, just serious ones. (i.e. situations where you might end up in jail.)

                  But if you want those things, just ask your fellow tax payers if they want to pay for them and if they would want a local law passed giving those rights to everyone. If you can convince them, I’m sure that your local representatives would be happy to levy a tax and pass a law so that everyone could have those things.

                • Piglet2010

                  Traffic matters are not insignificant when a person can lose their job because of a couple of speeding tickets.

                  I guess the taxpayers like living in a police state.

                • Randy Singer

                  > I guess the taxpayers like living in a police state.

                  The taxpayers like living in a democratic state. That’s the opposite of a police state.

      • FridaysAreFunDays

        …wait, wait wait…you mean Piglet was not only *wrong* but he actually gave out BAD ADVICE?
        Piglet?!? NOOOOOO….

        Hm, I wonder if this is why it is a crime to give legal advice if you’re not a lawyer.
        As an aside, one surefire way to win a traffic case is to delay the case as long as possible, then request a trial with the officer present and bet that they won’t show up in court. The judge has little choice other than either to dismiss the case.or try it without the officer and find you not guilty.

        • Randy Singer

          I can’t speak for other states (I’m only licensed to practice law in California, and the law varies from state to state), but in California the officer is always required to show up at trial, and they are paid time and a half to show up (so they have plenty of incentive to show up – it’s easy money). I was a Traffic Court judge for years, and presided over hundreds of cases, and in all that time the officer never once failed to appear. And they always showed up surprisingly well prepared. (They must receive a lot of training on how to testify at trial.)

          Most of the technicalities that people think will get their case dismissed, the legislature has heard about and they have come up with provisions in the law to keep it from happening. These folks aren’t idiots. They want their money and they know how to get it from you. Most of the technicalities that folks have heard of, that worked 40 years ago, don’t work now.

          • Piglet2010

            How many people request jury trials for speeding tickets?

          • FridaysAreFunDays

            ….yeah but I only said this because that is what happened to me two months ago.

  • Comic Chuck Ludwig

    I’m always worried about getting pulled over with my headphones in. I live in SoCal. Does anyone know the legality of that? I know they can hit you with a ticket in a car if you’ve got your plugs in. I wear noise canceling plugs, and often don’t even have them plugged into my phone.

    • Strafer

      In Cal (& NY) it should be you are allowed a single earphone only -
      i believe some headphones come with only a single cord (or bluetooth)

    • karlInSanDiego

      The last time I was pulled over in San Diego, it was a motorcycle cop. He started to speak to me, and I had to signal to him to wait until I pulled out my custom earbuds. Absolutely no poor response from him. Don’t sweat the headphones. But as with the rest of the advice here suck up and be respectful.

  • MCC315

    Good advice, but ripping the throttle is so much easier than being polite and hiring a lawyer

    • FridaysAreFunDays

      yes, and ticketing you for fleeing and eluding and reckless endangerment is so much easier when you are at home and the bike is parked next to your residence than when you’re doing 150mph. They only need to identify your bike to both confiscate it and to issue a ticket. The registered owner gets the ticket.
      They have to appear in court and provide evidence that they were not riding the bike at the time it was observed breaking the law egregiously.


    A time-tested, much-proven (I’m sorry to say) hint where speed is involved. As always, of course, be respectful, polite and cooperative. But DO NOT concede guilt. “Did you realize you were going 75 in a 55?” “No.” Boom, you just conceded guilt. “I clocked you going 75 in a 55.” “I didn’t realize I was going that fast.” Whoops, you did it again. Try eight simple words: “I don’t believe I was going that fast.” You aren’t saying you weren’t going that fast (aka, calling him/her a liar), you are merely saying you don’t believe you were. It’s hard, but keep it up, as respectfully as you can. If you do not admit guilt, you are making it much harder for them to write you a ticket. It doesn’t work every time, but it works a lot of the time, and even a reduced fine is better than the full-on with all the trimmings.

    In other news, if you feel the urge to modify (exhaust, integrated signals, fender eliminators, etc) don’t give in to the urge to underwrite the farkles by selling the stock parts. If you get a fix-it ticket for a loud exhaust, it’s a LOT easier to get it cleared up by slapping the stock exhaust back on, and going and finding a peace officer to void the ticket.

    In still other news, it’s a truism that motorcycle cops ride bikes in their personal lives. More than perhaps the four-wheeled variety, they tend to be very attentive to things like bike condition, the quality of your gear, and other little cues (not least your demeanor and body language) that tell them you are a serious, educated rider and not some squid bombing around.

    And, yes, being older helps. A lot. “Me on a Ducati, you in an Explorer, if I wanted to get away I would have.” works a lot better when you’re 40 than when you’re 20. Of course, when he was in the midst of writing me up anyway, and a sportbike came screaming around the corner, saw us and slammed on his brakes, and I did the universal tapping my head (“cops are nearby”), everybody cracked up laughing.

    • gr33nspan

      I’m going to have to disagree with your first hint. Cops have all the probable cause they need to write you a ticket as soon as they pulled you over. Your admission or denial of guilt has no bearing on that. When I worked patrol, I almost never cited anyone who were friendly and owned up to their mistake so if I were to pull you over, your time tested hint could only work against you. I’ve also known cops who have never not given a ticket in a traffic stop so ultimately, it all depends on who you’re dealing with.

    • FridaysAreFunDays

      ” But DO NOT concede guilt. “Did you realize you were going 75 in a 55?”
      “No.” Boom, you just conceded guilt. “I clocked you going 75 in a 55.”
      “I didn’t realize I was going that fast.”"

      That all depends on perception. In my opinion when you say “no” that is not an admission that you *were* going 75 in a 55. But sure some people could say that it is an admission. Heck there are people out there that will agree to anything anyone could ever say. Likewise “I didn’t realize that I was going that fast” because you thought you were not going that fast.

      in any case it doesn’t matter what you say to the police as long as you aren’t in court defending yourself from a charge.
      Don’t argue with them either way. Take the ticket and go.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Pulled over 3 times on bike. One ticket two warnings. Last time bike CHP tailed me for 5 exits on the 5 North (he later told me) watching to see how badly I’d break the law. Finally, when I was exiting the freeway, he pulled into view and followed me off, promptly pulling me over. I believe he thought he was nailing a young Marine or just a squid, but his attitude changed quickly when he saw my white hair and my excessive gear (I ride with Knox Gilet and chest guard among other good gear). He asked if the brake LEDs on my swingarm were stock, and I said no, I added them for better visibility. He was looking for my side reflectors, and I pointed out my reflective wheel stripes in red. He pointed out, technically my front one should be amber. He warned me of 90mph speed, aggressive splitting in excess of 70, but ultimately gave me a fix it ticket for no rear reflector, which was easy to remedy with those little reflector bolts. Nice cop. Most are if you’re nice to them.

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    I’ve only been pulled over on my bike once, ever. I was just west of the OC Great Park, and to my knowledge I hadn’t broken any traffic laws. The lights came on behind me and I pulled over, turned off the bike, and took off my helmet. The bike cop approached and thanked me for pulling over- which I thought was a bit odd. He asked if I knew why he pulled me over, and as I honestly didn’t, I told him so. He said “Your taillight is out son, from behind you look like a floating Alpinestars logo!” He told me to ride home safely and get it fixed, and that was that. Definitely one of the less typical traffic stops I’ve had. Now, in my STi…

    • HoldenL

      That was a cool cop. A burned-out tail light is a serious problem on a bike. It’s good that he was looking out for you, as opposed to wanting to write a ticket. Wearing a helmet and jacket helped you out there. A cop in a car probably would act differently.

      • FridaysAreFunDays

        Same problem, which is why I’ve taped up the whole back of my bike with a mix of red (under the brake-light) and white (on the rear quarter) reflector-tape, plus my helmet. It’s bad enough that I have only the two red bulbs back there, on my old bike one of the two tended to burn out ever few months or so.

  • Randy S

    Be sure to be white. That helps a lot.


    • Piglet2010

      Yes, in some jurisdictions, driving while black is a defacto offense.

      • Telemachus_1

        I think what you mean to say is that crime is relatively rare in places that are nearly 100% white or east asian, hence the entire traffic enforcement system is very different.

  • Mark D

    If you feel you have a legitimate grievance or aren’t guilty of the charges, go home, call your lawyer and deal with it then.” After all, revenge is a dish best served cold! Great advice.

  • Pete Bull

    In Europe we may have a lot of rules and taxes that seems outrageous for Americans. At least we don’t worry about being shot when pulled over. Getting a ticket for an open visor or not keeping our feet on the pegs is just not going to happen. I’ve only been pulled over once and this happened in Malibu. The nice motorcycle cop fined me $140 for doing 55 in a 40 zone in POS rental car, on a road that had at least three lanes with hardly any traffic.

    • FridaysAreFunDays

      …the cop didn’t fine you.
      The local jurisdiction fined you.

      The cop only wrote you a ticket to appear in court to answer the charge of speeding.

      You have the right to challenge a traffic-ticket in court.

      If you either cannot defend yourself against the charge or you choose not to appear in your own defense, then don’t complain when you violate local laws, get caught, have a chance to actually defend yourself against the charge, prove unable to do so and then get lawfully fined.

      Now I can appreciate the fact that you’re from Europe and in Europe things may be different, but that doesn’t mean they are as bad here as you say.
      Also when you say that something “will not happen” in Europe, remember that it’s not up to you to decide that.
      It could have happened while you were typing that.

      • Pete Bull

        Good for you that you know something about the legal system in your country. I can tell you something I know about the laws in my own. I am actually allowed to ride with my visor open. I’m allowed to wave my feet in the air too.

  • Stef

    Wauw american cops are crazy…

    • Piglet2010

      In most of the world, non-elites fear the police more than they fear the criminals. The US is trending in that direction.

  • Aaron

    Don’t change exhaust? There is a How to Change Exhaust article on the front page….

    • metric_G

      Not everyone riding on the street with an aftermarket exhaust, there are track only bikes, amateur racers, etc.

      • Aaron

        Very true, but they are more likely to install a full system rather than the slip on described in the article.

    • Reid

      I was curious about that too. It would really suck to live in a state/province/country where you couldn’t add something as simple as an aftermarket exhaust.

      • Aaron

        For the most part no one will care if you are not driving like a tool. At least that is how it is around here.

  • Nick

    I actually had some luck with not saying a word last time I was pulled over. The officer was yelling at me for ‘riding like an idiot,’ and I was the only one in the group that actually stopped. I figured I was screwed (like arrested screwed) so I just didn’t say a word.
    I think the only words I said were no – when she asked me if I was mute. Ended up only getting a warning.

  • HammSammich

    The last time I was pulled over, a buddy and I were on an old country highway that opened up into a long straight. We went around an SUV and cracked 100mph, then as I passed a sign showing the speed limit reduced from 55mph to 25mph (for a clearly abandoned cemetary), I decided to slow down. When I checked my mirror that SUV I passed was right on my tail and had hidden red/blue lights flashing behind me. We pulled over and waited, and a US Marshall came out of the SUV asking us for licenses and registrations. Unfortunately, I had left my tank bag at home (which had my registration in it). Similarly, my friend who had just pulled his bike out of storage for the summer after living for most of the year in Turkey didn’t have his registration. The Marshall ran our licenses and after confirming we weren’t criminals gave us a stern warning, told us to be carefull and released us to go about our ride. Realistically, I’m not sure that he could have written us a ticket, but he definitely could have detained us and contacted the local authorities. Other than being polite and respectful, it was pretty much just pure luck that got us out of it. Also, in my experience it seems that the Bonneville tends to get more positive attention from LEO’s than negative…

  • Reid

    The Law who work around my neck of the woods have this fun trick they do where they follow people really close on the mark’s bumper/back tire, and always at night and mostly on two-lane roads (my county has a couple huge ones for main thoroughfares) when it’s presumably more difficult for us pathetic crimin…I mean worthless civilians to tell that the solid-colored Crown Vic or Explorer is hiding a light bar behind the window tint. The object of this dastardly ploy being, of course, to entice the mark into speeding up slightly to get rid of the tail-gating vehicle behind them. Upon doing so the mark is slapped with a big ticket and all kinds of super serious or condescending smirks from the Heat. “Where are you in such a hurry to get to, chief?”

    • Piglet2010

      If you can afford a really good lawyer, slam on the brakes and claim an animal ran out into the road. Be sure to sue for civil damages too – money talks, and the expense will have the department cracking down on such behavior.

  • Luis Fernando Ponce

    Ha! It’s interesting to learn how to behave in front of police in a different country. Me from a Central American country where police usually stops you to assault you end working the same way as you said. The most humble and pacific you show the better, they love to feel themselves in charge.

  • RideaTart

    I’ve been pulled over and let go a couple times because, according to the officer, I was being honest and straight up. I don’t see that you give up much with that strategy. If they’re going to write you up for speeding, they’ll do it anyway whether you admit it or not. It’s not like they’re asking permission to search you or something like that. If you plan on fighting the ticket, then maybe it’s better to admit nothing. I’ve never really considered fighting a ticket.

    • Piglet2010

      +1 on the user name.

  • Fzilla

    Illegal roscoe, up the outside of the turning lane, lights go on, Officer FJR asks me ‘Sir do you know…?’, I cop to the non-kosher nature of my last maneuver, he explains briefly the smearing I was risking, warns me with a stern finger-wag, and we spend the next 10 minutes talking bikes.
    Tip: Stomp those emotions flat, boys and girls. Stomp ‘em flat. Be calm, polite and honest, cooperate fully (even if it makes you die a little inside), and things will often turn out way better than you expected.

    • FridaysAreFunDays

      wow one interaction with a cop and suddenly you’re a consultant.

  • FridaysAreFunDays

    …funny, I rarely get pulled over on my bike, I guess that’s because I rarely ride like an idiot on it. Oh I definitely get followed, i can tell by how often cops cruise past me from behind.

    In fact in the past 3 years I’ve gotten pulled over just once, and that for what was perceived as a dim headlight due to low idle on an old bike at a stop-sign and an overzealous and bored local police-force.

    I have gotten pulled over while driving mainly because the police were being aholes after one of their cops crashed and died on a chase while not wearing a seatbelt and I got a lot of no-seatbelt tickets. Other than that, nada. Not getting pulled over at all is by far the best way to deal with them.

    BTW what is it with these articles…when you’ve pulled the bike over and stopped, what makes you think the officer expects you to run?
    Why all this predication…of nonsense? You don’t know what the officer is thinking, you don’t know how his day has been, you don’t know crap about them other than they pulled you over! Why all the assumptions and stupid assumptions at that? So many of these articles are filled with such nonsense.

  • Piglet2010

    The most important thing is to ***NEVER*** give the police permission to search you or your bike*. If they happen to “find” contraband, you are doing time in prison, unless you get the evidence thrown out in court for an illegal search.

    *Or your car, house, etc.

  • Archie

    I’m assuming you live in the US?

  • thomas flournoy

    Last time I got pulled over on a motorcycle it was basically for cutting through traffic, not signalling, and lane splitting. The cop told me to ride safe so he didn’t have to scrape me off the side of the road and he told me to have a nice day.

  • Sentinel

    Excellent article Wes!

    Last time I was pulled was after passing a big relatively slow
    moving truck that was frying my lungs with foul exhaust and blocking me in the
    HOV lane. I had to cross both doubles to get around him, but soon after I got
    red-lighted by a motorcycle cop. He wasn’t being a punk to me which was nice. I
    did make the intelligent safe and unthreatening moves as I made my way off the freeway
    and onto a safe road there, shut of the bike, pulled my helmet, set it on the
    gas tank and waited. We actually ended up joking around and talking bikes a
    bit. Instead of the HOV violation he just gave me a regular speeding ticket, so
    while it was ridiculously expensive, it wasn’t as bad if I had gotten tagged
    with the HOV violation, so while I still ended up with a ticket, it wasn’t as
    bad a ticket as it could have been, and I got to ride away without being
    beaten, imprisoned, or murdered, and that’s always a good thing!

  • Ben Mcghie

    Up here in BC, Canada, same deal. I’ve been pulled over twice on the bike with headphones in. One time I got them out before the cop walked up, she didn’t comment on the earbuds hanging from my collar. The other time I had to hold a finger up “wait pls” while I finished getting the helmet off and ear plugs out. Officer just waited calmly. Both times resulted in speeding tickets :( but for the minimum amount and I was certainly NOT doing a minimal amount of speed. :)

  • Campisi

    Always approach cops as you would a rabid animal: no unnecessary noises, no sudden movements, and nothing that appears challenging. Accept that they’ll probably bite you anyway, and try harder to avoid them in the future.

  • James Jamerson

    I never advocated lying – My few hours of part-time delivering auto-parts to shops (employee discount!) requires a clear record. And I’m not saying that it’s right that it works, I’m just saying that it has worked.

    I show up with a copy of my driving record. Which is clear. Because of the PBJ. So yes, 4/4. It is a dangerous game to play, because if it hadn’t worked all the points would have hit at once. Luckily, having a motorcycle means I don’t speed as severely (in the bright-red attention-seeking car), so I’m finally coming out of probation!

    • Wes Stupid

      “I show up with a copy of my driving record. Which is clear. Because of the PBJ. So yes, 4/4.”

      …guys like you are the reason the cops have started to make little marks on a drivers’ registration when they write a ticket.

      That way they can ticket you for something that won’t let you talk your way out of it in court, and then request that charges are dropped to their liking.

      “It is a dangerous game to play, because if it hadn’t worked all the points would have hit at once.”

      You’d think that you’d realize that the first time.

  • Enntense

    I’ve actually gotten out of two minor speeding violation by, when asked for my drivers license, I also presented my concealed weapon permit. In this state you are required to present it if you are armed and pulled over. I’n both situations the officers immediately told me how much the entire situation instantly de-escalated, and after short chats sent me on my way.

  • JaitcH

    I wear a helmet cam, somewhat concealed, as well as a cam next to the headlight (hidden) and another pointing out from under the rear brake light (hidden)(I’m in electronics).

    I never argue with them, or even caution them I am recording, just listen to what they claim, then wait for them to stick their hand out for their bribes. I pay them, too.

    When I get back home I then send e-mails to the Internal Affairs, with the videos attached, and request my money be returned. The traffic police have a rule no officer must carry money (notes) larger than 50,000 Dong – you save money if you carry 200,000 or 500,000 Dong notes – they never have change!

    That’s the way in goes in VietNam.

  • John Chavez

    We prefer to be addressed as “Officer.” Thanks, Wes!

  • Shotwellian

    While I appreciate the article and the writer’s point of view, there was something that didn’t sit quite right with me as I made my way through. Then I read that the author was from the UK, and apparently didn’t grow up dealing with American cops and traffic rules, our unique concepts about the rule of law, liberty and individual rights, the huge variance in both state law and enforcement styles in this huge country, nor the vague memory of living here when this country was not a police state. There are many good points here, but I would not use this as a guide for how to interact with law enforcement in this country.

  • Abel Gleason

    The last time I was about to be pulled over, I ran…AND IT WAS EVERYTHING I THOUGHT IT COULD BE! I didn’t run far, or even that fast; with the benefit of going up a hill and around a turn that hid me for a few moments from the turning cop’s view, I pulled into a restaurant parking lot and then hid behind the last row of cars, farthest from the road. Just as I was starting to feel like a boob for pulling into a screeching halt in a populated parking lot at 35mph, I spied the cop car racing up over the hill through the windows of the car that shielded me. He looked frantically both ways at the four-way stop before tearing off to the right with his lights on. Once he was out of sight, I slowly proceeded back out of the lot and found an alternate route to my destination.

    It was one of the best days of my life.

  • Viktor_Ishzah

    If the cop is travelling in the opposite lane towards you, and you know you’ve been fingered, pull over and wait for them. Chances are very likely that (if your record is clean), they’ll thank you for not making them chase you, and they’ll let you off with a warning (unless you were doing something completely outrageous, like driving 90 mph in a 55 zone).

  • Sal Paradise .

    Be polite. Plead not guilty, go to the court and ask for a reduction to a parking ticket. Works most of the time.

  • Andreas Lund

    I got pulled over once at 3am in the morning doing about 140 km/h in a 80 km/h zone. I thought I was all alone and when I noticed a car was catching up with me from behind I slowed down before his lights came on. I stopped the engine, got my license and registration out before opening my window and waiting for him to get out of his car. As he came up to me I just couldn’t help but laugh and he asked me why I replied quite honestly; “I’ve lived here for five years and never drove this fast before, this is so typical”. He checked my documents, gave me the stern finger and told me to drive properly.

    I’m not sure if he got a proper measurement, because 140 km/h would have been enough to take away my driver’s license in this country. Also, guns are a non-issue in this country so going for your papers immediately is seen as the polite thing to do in order to now waste the other person’s time.

  • Paul Leonard

    I just try to avoid police like the plague and I’m a straight arrow. In fact, I’d rather suffer the loss on a minor theft than call the cops. Just put your hands on your head like they are arresting you, say just yes/no, volunteer no info and subtly act like they are socially awkward. That puts them into “I want people to like me mode” and they go looking for your approval. I’ve gotten out of many a ticket when younger…