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Why Do Officers Stop People?

There are many different reasons why you might be involved in a traffic stop by our Police Department. Whatever the reason, the officer needs your cooperation:

  • The officer may want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation.
  • You may have committed a traffic violation.
  • Your vehicle may match the description of one used in a crime.
  • The officer might think you are in trouble and need help.
  • You may have witnessed a crime.

If you are stopped by an officer while driving, you may feel confused, anxious, or even angry. These are natural feelings, but remember, traffic stops can also be stressful and dangerous for the officer. Many law enforcement officers are killed each year and thousands more are injured in traffic-related incidents. Each year approximately half of all line-of-duty officer deaths were related to traffic incidents. Every stop for a traffic violation has the potential for danger. Help reduce the uneasiness during a traffic stop.

Florida Statute 316.126 requires all drivers shall yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. Drivers are to immediately pull over parallel to the nearest edge, stop and remain in a stopped position until the emergency vehicle has passed.  In addition, when an emergency vehicle making use of any visual signals is parked, the driver of every other vehicle, as soon as it is safe, shall vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle when driving on an interstate highway or other highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle. When traveling on a two lane road, drivers approaching parked emergency vehicles with visual signals activated shall reduce their speed to 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit.

What to do when an officer stops you:

  • When you see the emergency lights and/or hear the siren, remain calm, slow down, and pull over to a safe location off the roadway.
  • Do not exit your vehicle unless asked to do so. This is for safety reasons.
  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see them.
  • Inform the officer of any weapons in your vehicle and their location. Do not reach or point to the location.
  • Avoid any sudden movements, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat, or passenger side of the vehicle.
  • Comply with the officer’s request to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Florida law requires you to carry these with you.
  • If your documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are before you reach for them.
  • If there are passengers in your vehicle, encourage them to remain quiet and cooperate with instructions. You, as the operator, are solely responsible for your vehicle and its occupants. 
  • Avoid becoming argumentative. Arguing will not change the officer’s mind. If you contest the violation, you will have an opportunity to address the matter in court.
  • Answer all questions truthfully.
  • If the officer issues you a citation and you feel the reason is vague or unclear, politely ask him/her for details.
  • If asked to sign a citation, do so. It is not an admission of guilt, but means that you will comply with the instructions on the ticket.  In some instances failure to sign could result in your arrest.
  • You have the right to politely deny a request by an officer to search your car. However, if probable cause is present, the officer has the right to search your vehicle without your consent.

Understand that each situation is unique and the officer must alter his or her response to fit the circumstances. Generally, however, an officer:

-  Will provide his/her name upon request.
-  Will inform a person of the reason for being stopped.
-  Will only arrest a person for a crime committed in his/her presence, or when the officer has probable cause to believe the person has already committed the crime.