What to say when you get a ticket
Ask any driving lawyer and they’ll agree that the outcome of the ticket dispute can hinge on what happened after the alleged offence was committed. It’s possible that you were speeding, but the fact of the speed may not be as important as what took place from the time the officer walked up to your vehicle. The interactions between the driver and the police officer are as important as what you do after the interactions are complete. It’s important to know what to say when you get a ticket.
[pullquote]Answering the question, “do you know why I pulled you over” can easily provide an offence to justify a stop.[/pullquote]
So, you’ve been pulled over?
The coercive apparatus of the state, in the form of law enforcement, is about to approach you in your safe haven and threaten your very existence. In other words, a cop is walking up to your car. You’ve been pulled over. What do you say?
The first few words that you and the officer say to one another are important. The officer will typically ask “do you know why I pulled you over?”
This is a very specific question asked for a specific reason. Although you are being detained, the officer is skipping over the Charter obligation of telling you why you were detained. Under section 10(a) of the Charter of Rights, the officer is generally required to tell you that you are being detained and the reason for the detention. Chances are that you’ve already figured out that you’re being detained (seeing as they’ve pulled you over). But do you know the reason for the detention?
If you answer the question by saying the reason, you fulfill their obligation to ensure you know why you are detained. You also confirm to them that you are aware that you committed the offence.
What happens if they pull you over just past an intersection thinking that you’re a bad guy, and then realize they pulled over the wrong car?
This scenario is surprisingly common. BC police are notorious for pulling over people who they think are “bad guys” just to make them uncomfortable and harass them. Often enough, after the blue lights start blinking, they realize they’ve got the wrong person. Rather than risk humiliation, they follow through on pulling over an innocent driver.
When this happens, they ask the driver the question, do you know why I pulled you over. If the driver says “red light” chances are that they’ll end up with a red light ticket.
So answering the question, “do you know why I pulled you over” can easily provide an offence to justify a stop.
I admit to nothing!
Not only that, it may be viewed as an admission. For example, if the officer is unsure after making the decision to pull you over — it’s a fluid situation in any event, and perhaps they realized they were mistaken — they may feel vindicated when you answer the question. In other cases, it may be a signal to the officer that you are docile and easily bullied, something that might be useful for the officer to know when you attend court for your trial.
It may also be a simple admission of having committed an offence. Although the admission may not necessarily be relied on in court, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be. Moreover, officers often successfully pressure drivers to confirm something they said earlier. The first time it was said, it might not be admissible in court for the trial. The second time, it may be evidence to prove guilt.
What to say when you get a ticket:
So what do you say when they ask this question? First of all, try to remain calm and polite. If you’re a jerk, the officer will remember you and put in great effort to record all of the details of the investigation. You don’t want that.
There is no perfect answer to this question, but the best answers are polite and valueless. For example, without offending the police officer you can say “I’m sure you have your reasons.”
This is neither too offensive nor does it assist the officer in their investigation. It turns it back on the police.
You could also answer “I’m sure it will say the reason on the ticket.” Again, this isn’t particularly argumentative or offensive as to launch the officer into a rage.
Blame a lawyer:
If you’re lost for words, one easy answer is to say that a lawyer told you not to talk to the police. Many police officers won’t even ask anything else upon hearing that. Usually there’s no point because it’s a clear statement that you’re relying on your right to silence and your right to counsel. Any questioning at that point may be a violation of your Charter Rights.
What not to say when you get a ticket:
“I’ll see you in court” is pretty stupid because that just means the officer will spend time preparing to see you in court.
Whatever you do, don’t swear. Don’t be chippy and don’t lie. The less you say, the better because you run the risk of saying something that could turn a traffic ticket into something much worse.
Never demand to see the evidence, such as the reading on the laser gun. Never demand to see the officer’s badge or get their badge number, or the badge number of the other officers on the scene. The investigating officer’s badge number will be on the ticket.
Never start talking about how much you respect the police. Things like this make it sound like you’re trying to win them over — to beg your way out of the ticket.
Keep your cool…
If you manage to keep your cool, remain unmemorable and remember what to say when the officer asks that crucial question, you’ll be in much better shape when it comes time for a trial.
When the officer comes back to your window with ticket book in hand, don’t put up a fuss. The officer will ask you to sign the ticket acknowledging service. Go ahead and sign. You’re not admitting to anything by signing the ticket. If you don’t sign it and you don’t pay it, you will be deemed to be convicted. If you dispute the ticket, you’re acknowledging having received it in any event.
So sign the ticket. And when they hand it to you, say “thank you.” If you say thank you you’re indicating that you are not too rattled by receiving the ticket. Moreover, you’re not a jerk.
When it comes time for the trial, you want the officer to have the lingering sense that you keep your cool, you’re not a jerk but otherwise you’re not particularly memorable.
Call a driving lawyer:
When you’re done with the police, and you have a moment to think things through, call our law office. You can speak with a driving lawyer in our office right away and we can discuss your case over the phone. If you know what to say when you get a ticket, and you take our advice, you’ll be in a good position to defend the ticket when it comes time for a trial.