Mimesis Law
23 July 2019

Cop Tips – Arguing with A Cop At A Traffic Stop

Mar. 1, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — YouTube is full of examples of people interacting with police officers during traffic stops. I watch these stops and I’m just amazed at the thought processes of some of these people. Even more amazing is that more of them don’t talk themselves into jail on a charge they don’t stand a chance of beating.

You’ll see a number of people ask the police for the reason for the stop, asking if the officer has probable cause or reasonable suspicion to suspect the driver of a crime. In most cases, the officer will immediately state the traffic law that was broken, from a burnt out license plate light to failing to signal a turn to speeding, or any other violation he noticed. Guys, that’s not just reasonable suspicion, that’s probable cause. All the officer needs is the reasonable suspicion.

The officer is under no obligation to tell you what his reasonable suspicion is—he has to be able to tell the judge, but you do not have a “right” to be provided that information by the officer on demand. So if the officer doesn’t give you any more information, that doesn’t mean you can refuse to provide him with your driver’s license. In many states, like Texas, refusing to display your driver’s license is a separate offense.

My rule was to ask three times, and after the third refusal, I hooked them up and hauled them to jail. Plus, the search incident to arrest usually located their drivers license in their wallet.

You’ll also see the driver, when told that he didn’t signal a turn far enough before the actual turn, immediately argue that he did. Some point to a dash cam or to a passenger.

Just don’t do it.

That’s an argument for traffic court, not for the traffic stop. The cop’s not going to argue with you. He’ll write you the ticket and you can argue about it in court. Your argument is not going to change the officer’s mind about the reasonable suspicion for the stop.

You pretty much do not want to argue with the officer at all.

And before all the libertarians flip out, not arguing does not mean that you do not assert your rights.

If you don’t want to answer questions, don’t. You can tell the officer that you do not answer questions. That’s asserting your right to remain silent. But you don’t have to argue or be an ass about it.

For example, in this video from 2012, the driver just continues to assert that he doesn’t answer questions. The officer doesn’t really know how to handle it.

Another point brought up is that the driver did not roll the window down. The cop’s response to this problem is simple: he orders them out of the car, which you can legally do for officer safety according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Pennsylvania v. Mimms. Again, if the driver refused to get out, I would tell him that he was under arrest for the traffic violation. It’s much easier to just roll down the window.

You should always assert your legal rights. Do not consent to a search, and verbally tell the officer that you are not going to consent to a search. Don’t argue or resist the search, but make sure and tell him you do not consent.

Your attorney will thank you later, especially if it is on video. It means that the officer will have to show another reason for the search, like probable cause under the automobile exception.

If the officer smells marijuana or sees an illegal knife in the floorboard, that’s probable cause. Rolling down the window with a joint tucked behind your ear is not going to help you either, because any one of the three examples will justify a search. All of those happened to me – the Cheech and Chong cloud of marijuana smoke on a traffic stop, the 14-inch-long Bowie knife on the floorboard (at the time, the legal limit in Texas was 6-inches), and the aforesaid joint behind the ear.

I didn’t ask for consent, because I didn’t need it, but some officers will, and if they do, a defense attorney can use that to allege that the officer really did not have probable cause.

The officer also does not have to provide three forms of identification, or his bond, or any number of other crazy ideas that various internet nutjobs have come up with. Arguing with him on that basis is going to convince him that you’re a sovereign citizen and therefore potentially dangerous. That’s not where you want to be, because he’ll be edgy, he’ll call his buddies over, who will also be edgy, and it increases the likelihood that you’ll be arrested.

Finally, if you are being ticketed, sign the ticket. Signing the ticket does not mean that you are “contracting” with the police department. You are not pleading guilty, it is just a promise to appear, the equivalent of a personal recognizance bond in most states. I usually would just write “refused” on a ticket if they didn’t want to sign it, but I’ve also arrested them at times, depending on the situation. Usually it involved the driver refusing to provide other information for the ticket, like employer and address, etc. Basically, if they refused to provide information so we could locate them if they failed to appear, they went to jail and posted bond.

You need to protect your legal rights when you are stopped.

Arguing with the cop won’t do that.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • David
    2 March 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    I generally agree with the article and it is probably a good idea to sign traffic tickets.

    That said, I have a problem with the way the signature block is worded.

    The ones that I have seen (which require signature) usually say:

    “My sig is not a guilty plea.”

    or

    “My sig is not an admission of guilt.” or the like.

    what they really should say is:

    –My sig is not an admission of any factual assertion made on the face of this ticket with the exception of my promise to appear, or (if appropriate) dispose of this matter by prepayment of fines.–

    Merely not admitting (the ultimate issue) guilt is a sort of negative pregnant that makes it sound like you are admitting other information on the ticket.

  • bacchys
    26 September 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Good advice.

  • Rachel
    30 September 2016 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Arguing with a cop at a traffic stop when you know you are in the wrong isn’t a good idea, and can only serve to get you into deeper trouble. Being patient, polite, and kind will make things a lot easier. Thank you for sharing this.