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Wood-Ridge Police Department

WHAT HAPPENS IF A POLICE OFFICER
STOPS YOUR VEHICLE?
Source: Bergen County Police Chiefs Association

Why was I stopped?

Moving Violations are the most common reasons a vehicle is stopped.  Some examples include speeding offenses, failure to stop at a red light or a stop sign, failure to use a turn signal, etc.

Registration or Equipment Violations are other reasons a vehicle may be stopped by an officer.  The laws governing driving privileges consist of approximately 400 pages.  It is not uncommon for a driver to be in violation of the law without knowing it.

Criminal Investigations often involve searching for a "get-away" car.  In today's mobile society, criminals often use cars or trucks to facilitate their crime.  Your vehicle may match the description of a suspect's vehicle.

Courtesy or Safety Concerns are other reasons an officer might stop your vehicle.  For instance, your trunk may be open, something may be hanging from under your vehicle, or you may have left groceries on your roof.

"Confirming, Supporting, and Strengthening
the Citizen and Police Partnership"

Steps to follow if you are stopped:

Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible.  Turn your flashers on and wait for further directions from the officer.

Stay in your vehicle, and turn on the interior light.  Good lighting assists in good communication.  Relax and remain in your vehicle.  If you leave the vehicle, you subject yourself and the officer to the dangers of traffic.

Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel.  Wait for the officer to request your license, registration, and proof of insurance.

Police officers are trained to ask for identification first, and provide an explanation second.  First, provide the proper documentation.  Then give the officer a chance to explain the reason you were stopped.  Providing your documentation will simplify and speed the process.  Remember, most often the officer is in uniform with a name tag displayed.  You have the advantage of knowing with whom you are dealing.  Extend the courtesy by providing the requested identification without argument.

If you do not agree with the citation, or the officer's demeanor, do not argue at the scene.  All citizens have the right to question their citation before a judge.  Every police department has an internal affairs system in place to investigate citizen complaints.

Common questions about police procedures:

Q. "Why did the officer seem to sneak up along side of my car?"
A.
Police officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic and, therefore, reduce the likelihood that they will be injured.

Q. "If it's only a minor offense, why did two or three officers show up?"
A.
A second officer is usually assigned, even on a routine motor vehicle stop as part of a standard operating procedure.  This provides safety and security for both the officer and the occupants of the stopped vehicle.

Q. "Why do the officers sit in the car for so long?  What are they doing?"
A.
The officer is verifying your driving privileges and vehicle registration status through the statewide computer system.

Did you know?
Some rules of the road

Carry Proper Identification

When driving a motor vehicle, you must have in your possession: your driver's license, proof of vehicle registration, and proof of current insurance for the vehicle, if you are stopped and you are stopped and you do not have any of these items with you, a citation may be issued.

It is the driver's (not the owner's) responsibility to be sure that the vehicle being driven is insured and that the proper documents are in the vehicle.

It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the person driving the vehicle possesses a valid driver's license.

Monitor Occupants - Driver's Responsibility

As the driver, you are responsible for the conduct of all the occupants of the vehicle.  This covers such things as passengers throwing trash out a window, hanging their arms or legs out a window, or acting in a disorderly manner.

As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts, and that children are properly secured.  In addition, if a police officer stops your vehicle, don't remove your seatbelt.

Signal Your Intentions

You must signal your intent to turn, or change lanes not less than 100 feet before performing the action.

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