What to do if you are stopped by the police

By Douglas Nagel - Vandalia Crime Prevention Officer

In 2015, Vandalia police officers stopped more than 4,500 motorists for various traffic violations. No one likes to be stopped by the police in the first place and no one wants to receive a citation. However, the enforcement of traffic laws is critical to keep our streets safe for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

There are several reasons an officer might make a traffic stop. The most common is for a moving violation such as speeding, driving under the influence, registration or equipment violations. Police officers also stop vehicles that match a crime suspect’s vehicle description. Finally, an officer might make a courtesy stop to tell you that something is dragging underneath your car or that you left something on the roof, for example.

There are several things you should do if you are pulled over. Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible and stay in it. If it’s dark outside, turn on the interior light and keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Do not argue at the scene. If you want to dispute the citation, take your argument to court. All of these actions will keep you safe and expedite the traffic stop.

During a traffic stop, the officer will explain why they stopped you and ask for your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration. Ohio traffic laws require you to have your driver’s license in your possession while you are driving and the state also requires you to carry liability insurance. If you do not have your driver’s license with you, you might be cited—- and if you cannot show proof of insurance, your driving privileges could be suspended. Depending on the reason for the stop, the officer may issue you a citation or a written or verbal warning.

A citation will include the violation description and a court date. Depending on the charge and your driving record, you may be required to appear in court. However, if it’s your first traffic offense and the offense is a minor misdemeanor; you will have an option of appearing in court or paying a waiver fee prior to your court date. The waiver fee is paid to the court and demonstrates that you agree you are guilty. You are not required to appear in court once you pay the waiver fee. (The officer will indicate on the ticket if you must appear in court.) The waiver fee is different than bail. Bail is paid to allow you to get out of jail prior to your court date. Bail will be returned once the case is disposed of, as long as you attended all your court dates. If you fail to show for your court date after posting bail, you will forfeit the bail amount and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

A written warning is a record showing that an officer has contacted you about a traffic violation. A warning is usually issued for minor equipment violations and registration violations. You typically have 72 hours to repair a defective piece of equipment, such as a malfunctioning headlight, and you could get a citation if you are pulled over later for the same violation. A verbal warning is a record showing that an officer made contact with you but issued no written documentation. The only record of the stop would be stored in the computer aided dispatch program.

No one enjoys being stopped by the police, but the practice is necessary to enforce traffic laws to keep the motoring public safe. With your help, a traffic stop can be accomplished in a safe and efficient manner, with you being on your way in a few minutes.


By Douglas Nagel

Vandalia Crime Prevention Officer

Reach Vandalia Crime Prevention Officer Doug Nagel at 415-2272.

Reach Vandalia Crime Prevention Officer Doug Nagel at 415-2272.