I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. (J.R.R.Tolkien, The Two Towers)

When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force.

Marko Kloos "Why the Gun is Civilization"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Traffic Stops


For most police officers answering calls, making traffic stops, patrolling, and filling out reports comprise the majority of their daily activities. The number of traffic stops an officer makes depends on his department’s policy, what kind of mood he’s in, and the number of violations he observes.

Many departments do have a “quota”. An office is expected and required to make X number of stops and write X number of citations. Other departments leave it totally up to the officer to make whatever stops he/she finds necessary. I know of one department where the sergeant in charge of the shift has patrolled for over 10 years and has never written a citation for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) while another officer on the same shift in the same area averages at least one DUI each night. Some departments restrict the number of stops and who you can stop. In many small towns there is a class of drivers called “The Untouchables”. These might include the mayor’s son, a councilman’s best buddy, the richest guy in town…I’m sure you get the picture. Stopping one of these even for a warning has gotten many officers terminated.

In Virginia an officer MUST have PC (probable cause) to initiate a stop. PC is a violation from the driver, a passenger, or something on the vehicle itself. It can be something as simple as a tag light out or an object dangling from the rear view mirror to something more severe such as swerving across the center line several times.

Officers are taught that “there is no such thing as a routine stop”. First and foremost in an officer’s mind is his safety. With that in mind here are a few things to think about if you get stopped. You DO have the right to get out of your vehicle but most officers would rather have you remain seated. If you do get out the officer will probably tell you to get back into the vehicle. If you decide to push the point and insist…that’s your right...but I’ve seen citations written where it would have been a verbal warning simply because the person was argumentative.

An officer does NOT have to tell you right away why he stopped you but he does at some point. Most officers will tell you why if asked but often you will run into a real butt-hole on a power trip pushing his badge around.

In Virginia you must show an officer your operator’s license, the vehicle registration, and/or proof of insurance on demand. Usually your license and registration will be validated. If the license and registration are OK, you will probably be told you’re free to go. But there is a hidden agenda here. The real reason you were stopped was to determine if you were DUI or DUID (driving under the influence of drugs). All the time the officer was interacting with you he was looking for indications that you are under the influence. If he doesn’t suspect you of DUI or DUID and releases you he now has a second hidden agenda.

In a casual and offhanded manner, he will ask if you have anything illegal in the vehicle and ask for your permission the search. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CONCENT TO A VEHICLE SEARCH. You do have to let him pat you down to check for weapons if he requests it. If you give consent to a vehicle search, you can limit it to certain areas and tell him he can’t search other areas. You can also stop the search at any time. HOWEVER if he finds anything illegal, then he can literally tear the vehicle apart looking for other illegal items. Also if the officer observes something illegal in the vehicle as he is interacting with you he doesn’t need your consent to search.

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