If You Are Pulled Over

There are many reasons why a police officer might stop you.

  • The officer may want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation.
  • You may have committed a traffic violation.
  • The vehicle you are driving may have an equipment violation.
  • The vehicle you are driving may match the description of a vehicle used in a criminal act.

Whatever the reason is for the stop, the officer needs your cooperation. Traffic stops are a very important law enforcement function, which maintains safety throughout our state. Understand that each situation is unique and that an officer must alter his or her response to fit the circumstance. Not only does the officer have to think about the actions and behavior of the occupant(s) within the vehicle, he or she must also be cognizant of the other vehicles driving past on the roadway.

The following procedures will ensure that the traffic stop is completed as quickly and safely as possible:

Don't panic - You may feel confused, anxious, angry, or concerned about a possible traffic citation. No matter how long you've been driving, these feelings are natural and occur to almost everyone.
Pull over to the right side of the road - Use your directional signal while pulling over as soon as you can safely do so. Most officers will understand if you slowly drive a short distance to pull into a driveway, parking lot, side street, etc. Do not stop in the middle of the road and do not pull over to the left. Pulling over as far to the right is the safest place for you and the officer.
Turn off the ignition - Even if the ignition is off, you will still be able to and should turn your hazard lights on.
Turn on the interior light - If the stop occurs between dusk and dawn, it is the law to turn on the interior light in your car. This is for the safety of you, the officer, and any passengers who may be in the vehicle.
Keep you hands in plain view or on the steering wheel - This is for your safety and the safety of the officer.
Comply with the officer's requests - The officer will request to see your driver's license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. Rhode Island law requires you to provide these items at the request of a officer. If the documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are before you reach for them.
Remain in your vehicle - After the officer gathers your documents, he or she will go back to their police cruiser. You should only get out of your vehicle if the officer asks you to.
Ask for clarification if needed - Depending on the reason for the traffic stop, you may be given a traffic citation. If the charge or the ticket is not clear, ask the officer for an explanation in a respectful manner. If you receive a citation, the officer will give you a summons with a court date on it. This allows you to contest the ticket and the opportunity to take your case before a judge.
Merge back into traffic - Using your directional signal, merge with caution back into the flow of traffic. On limited access roadways, safely gain speed in the shoulder before entering fast moving traffic.

Remember:

  • If you are carrying a weapon, advise the officer of the weapon and its location.
  • Being stopped at night, particularly along a dark stretch of road, can heighten the tension for motorists and officers. Troopers generally do not object to drivers proceeding to the nearest well lit area. Simply acknowledge the trooper by turning on your flashers and drive at a reduced speed.
  • Bright spotlights are used for the safety of all persons involved. They are not meant to intimidate or embarrass you.
  • Communicate your actions in advance by telling the officer what you will be doing before you move. The officer doesn't know anything about you or your intentions. They are just trying to keep everyone involved in the situation safe.
  • Avoid making any sudden movements that might be interpreted by the officer as you hiding or reaching for something.
  • Do not assume that the officer knows that you are a perfect, law abiding citizen. Law enforcement can be dangerous work. Troopers must be cautious at all times.
  • Rhode Island's "Move Over" law dictates that if you see an emergency vehicle such as a police car with its lights on pulled over on the side of the roadway, you must slow down, giving as much room to the emergency vehicle as safely possible, and continue at a reduced speed until you have passed. If you are on a roadway with at least two lanes of traffic in each direction, you must move your vehicle into the lane furthest from the emergency vehicle.