Traffic Stop Advice

Do traffic stops make you feel nervous? Powerless?

Do you feel confused about what to do and what not to do?

What if you could get advice from not one, but an entire panel of attorneys?

Well, you are in luck! 35 criminal defense attorneys from 15 states and the District of Columbia offered their best advice to empower motorists. Each attorney was asked this question:

“If you could give one piece advice to someone pulled over for a traffic stop, what would it be?’

Here’s what some of the country’s most brilliant legal minds had to say:

“Survive the encounter.”

-- Andre M. Grant, Office of Andre M. Grant, Illinois, practicing 24 years

“Strictly exercise your right to remain silent. Make no admissions. Do not do the officer’s job for him or her by volunteering unsolicited information. You have no obligation to answer personal questions such as, ‘Do you know how fast you were going?’ ‘Where are you coming from?’ as your statements may be used to incriminate you. Remember the officer pulled you over so just politely ask why you were stopped. If a ticket is issued, do not try to explain or defend yourself at the time of the stop.” You will have an opportunity to dispute or defend it at a later date.”

-- Shaun Rai Whitney, The Law Offices of Shaun Rai Whitney, Esq., New Jersey, practicing 9 years

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, roll all your windows down and turn on some light before the officer gets to your car. Puts the officer’s mind at ease.”

-- Alger Boswell, The Boswell Law Office, LLC, Indiana, practicing 6 years

“Keep your hands visible and your mouth shut.”

-- Jayne Ingles, Jayne Ingles P.C., Illinois, practicing 15 years

“There are so many different variables involved in a stop. Where is the stop occurring? Have you had anything to drink or used substances even a tiny amount? I guess, universally speaking, I would say stay in the car and roll down your window as soon as you stop. If readily available, have your license and registration out. When the officer comes to your window, smile and appear respectful and hand the officer your license and registration. Don’t answer any questions posed to you. Nod yes or no only and if pressed respectfully say in a respectful manner “I prefer to only speak with a lawyer present”. Respectfully refuse any roadside tests, period. Be cooperative with all requests to get out of your vehicle, to stand in a certain location and even to get arrested and put in their cruiser. Anything you say can and will be used against you. And tests are considered statements. Be calm and collected and don’t be tricked into doing anything just because you are worried about going to jail or getting a ticket. Waiving your rights or giving permission to violate your rights will only increase your likelihood of getting a ticket or going to jail. Nothing that is asked of you is done to help you; it’s done to obtain incriminating evidence against you to justify the charge that’s coming. You don’t have to prove your innocence. They have to prove your guilt. Staying silent yet respectful makes that far more difficult.”

-- Larry Brown, Jr., Law Office of Larry Brown, P.C., Virginia, Colorado, and District of Columbia, practicing 27 years

“Keep your hands visible, don’t reach for anything, don’t appear to be making note of the officer’s name. Tell any occupants of your car not to say one word. I would advise to stop any movement, fidgeting at all seems to heighten the officer’s curiosity/ anxiety.”

-- Marcus R. Salone, Law Office of Marcus R. Salone, retired Appellate Justice, retired circuit court judge, on the bench for 22 years, practicing for 15 years

"My 2 faves: You have the right to remain silent.  You can say that out loud and that's all. You have the right to refuse to consent to search your car.  If police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.  But you don't have to agree." 

-- Heather Pinckney, Harden and Pinckney, PLLC, District of Columbia, practicing 18 years

“Be nice. Even when advocating your rights there’s no reason to be a jerk. It always goes better when your cordial with the officer.”

-- Stephen Berrios, Shiller Preyar Law Offices, Illinois, practicing 7 years

“The objective for someone stopped for a traffic stop should be safety. Litigation is for the courtroom on another day in a different venue. Let someone know that you have been stopped the very first chance you get.”

-- Chris Tolbert, Tolbert Law, Texas, practicing 6 years

“Be polite.”

-- Andrea D. Bonds, The Law Office of Andrea D. Bonds, Indiana and Illinois, practicing 13 years

“Say as close to nothing as possible.”

-- Deon Browning, Browning Legal Group, Pennsylvania, practicing 5 years

“Only give name, address and phone number. Do not take any field sobriety test, or breathalyzer. Be kind and don't consent to any searches. However, if a search is conducted without consent, remain calm.”

-- Camille Hicks, The Law Office of Camille Hicks, Illinois, practicing 13 years

“Gather your insurance, license, registration, put car in park, turn ignition off, put flashers on, turn on dome lights…and put hands on the steering wheel.”

-- Stephen LeBrocq, LeBrocq Law Firm, Texas, practicing 4 years

“Be polite. It’s about surviving the encounter. As painful as it may be, you catch more flies with honey.”

-- Tony Thedford, Thedford Garber Law, Illinois, practicing 21 years

“Prior to being pulled over, make sure you have all of your identifying information in one spot that is easily accessible and close to you. Have it ready before the officer gets to your window.”

-- Mayo Wilson, Wilson Shareef, Virgina, practicing 14 years

“Have your license and insurance handy...having to look for them will be called a “furtive movement.”

-- Ken Fletcher, Illinois, former judge, on the bench for 6 years, practicing 36 years

“Pull out you license and registration and don't say anything more than a simple greeting.”

-- Courtney Fauntleroy, Attorney at Law, North Carolina, practicing 17 years

“Don't do the fields.”

-- Bruce Mosbacher, Mosbacher Law Group, Illinois, practicing 37 years

“Remain calm.”

-- Brent Hawkins, Hawkins Kee, Louisiana, practicing 10 years

“Stop talking. Try not to offer much past providing the officer with your identification. Also remind people that most, if not all, officers have body cameras [in Chicago] now. Therefore, everything is being recorded.”

-- David Kelly, Office of David L. Kelly, Illinois, practicing 18 years

“NEVER do FSTs (field sobriety tests). Ever. They’re subjective and police officers ALWAYS say you failed. You can never talk your way out of it.”

-- Dante Pride, The Pride Law Firm, California, practicing 9 years

“Give them your license and be quiet. Don’t blow. Don’t do the tests. Don’t tell them what you had to drink.”

-- Ashley Shambley, Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Illinois, practicing 8 years

“Be respectable and calm. Don’t fight or argue with the officer. If arrested don’t sweat it, the legal system is your fighting chance, not at a traffic stop.”

-- Andre J. Smith, The Law Office of Andre J. Smith, P.C., Georgia, practicing 3 years


-- Randolph Stone, Director of the University of Chicago Law School Criminal & Juvenile Justice Project Clinic, Former Public Defender of Cook County, Deputy Director of the District of Columbia Public Defender Service, Illinois, practicing 41 years

“In this climate, exercise extreme restraint and the utmost in polite behavior. Use the “Yes Sir’” that our Ancestors were required to use. The key is to get through the stop with your life. It’s too crazy out here to oppose anyone with a gun.”

-- Jacqueline Moss-Oglesby, Moss Law Firm, South Carolina, practicing 24 years

“Don’t blow don’t talk don’t consent don’t do fields don’t answer any questions!”

-- Dena Singer, Bedi & Singer, Illinois, practicing 15 years

“Shut up.”

-- Aubrey Ward, Law Office of Aubrey Ward, New York, practicing 9 years

“A practical piece of advice especially for black folk is to have your license, insurance and registration already bundled, easily accessible and ready to hand to the officer as to avoid fumbling and reaching.”

-- Otis Dominique, Mandiba Law, Illinois, practicing for 16 years

“I would say to remain calm, be cordial to the officer, provide requested documentation, and keep in mind that the stop will be over in a few minutes. I have so much more to say, like the smell of weed gives [the] officer probable cause to search the vehicle. I think people don’t realize that.”

-- Michanna Talley Tate, Access Law, South Carolina, practicing 6 years

“Keep your hands on the steering wheel and immediately ask for an attorney. Don’t jerk away from being arrested. Get arrested and let your lawyer fight for you later.”

-- Brittany Kimble, Law Offices of Brittany B. Kimble, Illinois, practicing 8 years

“Don’t answer extraneous questions. Keep conversation minimal and light. Take your ticket and keep it moving.”

-- Corey M. Smith, The Law Office of Corey M. Smith, P.A., Florida, practicing 19 years

“Be as courteous as possible. I’ve been courteous and successfully asserted my own rights without causing problems and I’ve been not so courteous while not asserting my rights which has backfired and caused more problems than the first option.”

-- Brendan Shiller, Shiller Preyar Law Offices, Illinois, practicing 15 years

“That’s a complicated question, given the current state. It definitely has layers…Once pulled over, keep hands on steering wheel at all times until asked to remove them, then slowly. So, there’s so much to say on this subject…”

Carmella Penn, Carmella Penn, Attorney-At-Law, Alabama and Georgia, practicing 21 years

“Be quiet.”

-- Anthony R. Burch, Burch & Associates, Illinois, practicing 15 years.

“Be respectful. If the stop is for a petty violation and you own up to it, the officer might just let you go. If it’s for a DUI, don’t blow! Either way, don’t be a jerk.”

-- Stephanie Kemen, Driver Defense Team, Illinois, practicing 9 years










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