If you like to drive fast cars, you’ll probably get pulled over by a cop at some point. Even the most law-abiding citizen finds it hard to stay under 55 in a brand-new Corvette or Mustang GT. As long as you weren’t driving recklessly and pay your ticket, you probably won’t give it a second thought (at least until your insurance rate rises).
Whatever happens, you don’t want to make things worse at a traffic stop or highway checkpoint. Knowing how to deal with a police officer can be the difference between going to jail and receiving a warning. In the most extreme cases, you might even avoid physical danger depending on your choice of words. Here are 18 things you should never say to a cop after getting pulled over.
18. ‘Is this really the best use of my tax dollars?’
Taxpayers do pay the salaries of cops, but reminding them of the fact will not get you out of a ticket. Usually, it just guarantees the cop will get angry, and you will end up with the maximum fine for your violation. There’s another way to look at it, too. At least in theory, cops aim to limit the impact of negligent driving. Saving pedestrians and other innocent people from reckless drivers is actually a decent way to spend tax dollars.
Next: Your connections on the force probably won’t help.
17. ‘My friends on the force won’t like this’
If you suggest you have connections at the police department, it probably won’t stop the cop who pulled you over from writing a ticket. We bet the mayor’s son or district attorney’s spouse could leave the scene without a citation, but if you happen to know someone in the force we suggest you either mention it casually or keep it to yourself. Pretending you’re going to get someone in trouble for doing their job is never a good call.
Next: Cops don’t care if others were speeding, too.
16. ‘That guy was going way faster’
When a pack of cars is speeding and you happen to be the unlucky one pulled over, just accept your fate. You won’t score any points with a cop if you point out a guy who was going 90 while you were going a mere 82. After all, a cop usually pulls over one person at a time, and you were still speeding. There is no strength in numbers when you break the law.
15. ‘I thought you had to be in good physical condition to be a police officer.’
This one should go without saying but you’d be surprised how many people take a personal dig at a cop who isn’t quite in tip-top shape. Although police officers certainly must be capable of apprehending criminals, they don’t all look like superheroes. Insulting their physique will only get you a larger fine.
Next: Saying a cop is wasting your time will fail.
14. ‘Obviously, I’m in a hurry. Can we speed things up?’
Let’s say a cop busted you for speeding when you were late for an appointment. Once you explain and the cop starts writing you a ticket, don’t vent your frustration by telling them to hurry things along. You’ll come off as rude, and if the cop wants to make you pay for it they can claim to need more time to run your license again. In other words, you might miss your the appointment completely.
Next: It’s your word versus a radar gun.
13. ‘There’s no way I was going 75 mph’
Cops use radar guns to see whether drivers are exceeding the speed limit. If you are caught going 10 to 15 miles per hour faster than the law allows, it doesn’t make sense to start arguing about a number. Do something more productive: Ask the officer to show you the radar gun. You can legally make this request and ask when the cop last calibrated the device. If anything contradicts what the cop said, you can use the information in your defense against the speeding ticket.
Next: Leave the arguments for court.
12. ‘The light wasn’t red, pal’
No one likes being told they’re wrong on the job. If you disagree with a cop after a traffic stop, don’t list the reasons how they messed up. Mistakes happen, but you’ll only escalate the situation by insisting a cop was wrong. When you have a case, try to get a witness and take it to traffic court. Make your argument there, and trust the justice system. If the cop was wrong there’s a chance they won’t show up, and you’ll win.
11. ‘Do you know who I am?’
A police officer likely won’t recognize you unless you’re actually a mayor, governor, or notable figure. So using your professional or personal standing in the community — as the neighborhood representative, head of the PTA, or prominent business owner — won’t get you far. Just like knowing someone on the force, it’ll feel inauthentic — like a bribe of sorts. So, check your ego and maintain respect for the officer.
Next: Don’t get too personal.
10. ‘Too bad you aren’t catching an actual criminal’
It’s true there are bigger crimes than turning illegally on red or coasting through a stop sign on an empty street. However, a cop can only work the job they get assigned on a given night. If they have to stop speeders or folks blocking the box, they are simply fulfilling their duty. When you tell them to go catch “a real criminal,” you demean their position and get personal — and you can expect the maximum penalty.
Next: You can refuse a breathalyzer, but you’ll still lose.
9. ‘I’m not taking a breathalyzer test’
In some states, a DUI offense can have a major impact on your life. Mandatory jail time, suspended licenses, huge fines, and other consequences await drivers who drank too much then got behind the wheel. When you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you violate the “implied consent” you gave when receiving the driver’s license. As a result, the typical DUI becomes worse. Additional jail time and longer license suspensions usually come standard.
Next: When your navigation system can’t help
8. ‘The navigation system said to go right’
Mapping systems have improved greatly in recent years, but they are still far from perfect. Occasionally, the navigation voice will deliver confusing directions, and you’ll end up on the wrong street. When the cop pulls you over and asks what you were doing, blaming it on the navigation system will sound pathetic. Drivers must keep their eyes on the road and follow traffic laws — at least until self-driving cars take over.
Next: Never tell a cop it’s OK to search your car.
7. ‘Go ahead, search my car’
You should be aware of the rights everyone has when being pulled over by a cop. Among them is the right to refuse a search. Police officers can only automatically search your car if they see contraband (i.e., probable cause) or following an arrest. They may also legally search your vehicle if you give them permission. Don’t let them. You may have an empty wine bottle or something else that could lead to a fine. You have nothing to gain from consenting.
Next: Don’t pretend you’re moments away from a new registration.
6. ‘I’m on my way to the DMV to fix it’
Driving with an expired license or registration might not be the most expensive ticket you can get, but these offenses will still cost you plenty. Once a cop pulls you over and notices the violation, there is no point saying you were on your way to fix it at the DMV. The officer will probably feel like you insulted their intelligence and give you the ticket after all.
Next: This remark almost sounds like a threat.
5. ‘Think you could catch me if I fled?’
You may be proud of your fast car, but we doubt you’d impress a police officer with this question. High-speed chases present serious danger to highway patrol, other drivers, and just about anyone else in their path. In other words, what seemed like an amusing joke will sound obnoxious and disrespectful to a cop. If the officer had doubts about you receiving a ticket, the debate would end right there.
Next: Inquiring about a cop’s price normally ends in jail.
4. ‘How much would it take to make this disappear?’
Offering to bribe a cop is setting yourself up for serious criminal charges. In most cases, just the suggestion will lead to your arrest and jail time once you sort through the ramifications with an attorney. Even a corrupt cop would hesitate to do such a thing because they would think they are being taped as part of a sting operation. This line spells nothing but trouble for anyone who speaks it. Pay the ticket, and move on with your life.
3. ‘I don’t have my driver’s license but my name is …’
If you lack the necessary paperwork, like a driver’s license or registration, it’s not the time to give the officer a fake name. They’ll run your plates and figure it out faster than you can make a run for it. It’s better to be honest about the missing identification and face the consequences, which might not be as bad as they seem.
Next: Escalating a bad situation
2. ‘I hope you don’t have a quick trigger finger’
Americans have seen enough footage of police traffic stops gone wrong to know things can escalate quickly. The situation starts off at a high level of tension when the driver has a weapon in the vehicle. Be sure to move slowly and inform an officer of every moment you make before and during the encounter. Never reference cops who shot before asking questions. You don’t improve anything by doing so.
Next: The worst type of police intimidation
1. ‘Don’t be scared’
When community activists and church groups discuss how to handle interactions with police, they say the first rule is to keep your mouth shut. Let the officer address you, and respond appropriately. Never start or prolong the conversation with ambiguous, possibly intimidating statements. Maybe the worst is telling a cop not to be scared. In a situation where their life might be on the line, you open a dangerous door by saying that or anything similar.