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How to Act If You're Stopped by the Police

Whether you call them the police, the Five-0, the Po-po, or something else entirely, be cool and follow these steps.


  • Step 1: Relax Relax. Being nervous, even if you’ve done nothing at all, makes cops suspicious.
  • Step 2: Keep your hands on the wheel If you’re in a car, put your hands in front of you, on the steering wheel. Don’t reach for your license or registration until you’re asked. Police are trained to assume that everyone has a hidden weapon, so don’t give them reason to believe that you might.
  • Step 3: Be quiet Remember the old adage, 'Speak only if spoken to'? Now’s a good time to follow it. Don’t offer excuses or explanations; you may be admitting to something they’re not even pulling you over for!
  • TIP: Call the person 'officer' instead of 'sir' or 'ma’am.' Surveys show this is the greeting police prefer.
  • Step 4: Stay put Stay put. If you get out of a car after being stopped, police assume it’s to attack. The same rule applies when there’s no car involved; if you walk even a few steps away, they assume you’re making a run for it.
  • TIP: If you have anything illegal, in a car or elsewhere, don’t look at it! Police are trained to study body language.
  • Step 5: Don't argue Do not complain or argue. It will never, ever work. Keep things civil — even friendly — and they just may cut you some slack.
  • TIP: If you have a Police Benevolent Association card, or membership to another police organization, keep it in your wallet so the officer can see it when you take out your license. Just try not to be too obvious about it!
  • Step 6: Take a ticket graciously If you get a ticket, simply take it and say 'thank you,' as hard as that may be. Being rude can only make trouble for you in the future.
  • FACT: Fourteen million arrests are made in the U.S. every year.

You Will Need

  • The ability to remain calm
  • Good manners
  • And a little luck!

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