What Police Are Thinking

police-checkpoint-aPeople often misunderstand how police officers think during traffic stops, checkpoints, and other such encounters. One of the most popular misperceptions is of the aggressive cop on steroids. While there are probably a few of these guys out there, most cops are basically good people trying to get through their day, just like you and me.

Of course every cop is different, but most have three major priorities in mind while they’re dealing with you, in this order:

  1. Get home safe.
  2. Don’t get fired.
  3. Don’t get sued.

First and foremost, cops want to get home safe. A lot of their training is focused on this and courts will give them a lot of leeway when officer safety is raised as an issue in a case. We can joke about donuts, but the truth is that every cop faces moments on the job that are genuinely scary.

So when you show the Fair DUI flyer to police – or in any other police encounter – it’s important that you don’t do anything that gives them a reason to feel danger. Keep your hands in plain view. Don’t make sudden movements.

This is also another reason to keep your mouth shut. If you speak, you might say something that could be misinterpreted by the officer as a threat or some other indication of danger.

Officers don’t want to get fired or sued either. The Fair DUI flyer will make them nervous about this for good reason. Cops are paying attention. More and more of them are aware that people have cameras, and that someone with a flyer like this is likely to be recording the encounter.

The choice of language at the bottom of the flyer is deliberate. By referring to statutes and/or cases, it warns that officer about a specific legal issue. Few officers will be familiar with those statutes or cases, and that will make them worried about their future in law enforcement. A good cop, at that point, will figure it’s a good idea to check with his sergeant before doing anything that might get him in trouble. The sergeant probably won’t know what to do either.

In a DUI checkpoint situation, they’ll see a line of cars behind yours and figure they can just get the next guy. Even if we’re incredibly successful in spreading the word, less than 5% of cars will have a flyer like this.

In a traffic stop, the flyer can hurt you slightly if the officer was thinking about cutting you a break on your ticket. But protecting yourself from the potential damage from a DUI arrest is far more important.

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70 thoughts on “What Police Are Thinking

  1. Michael Fullmer

    But protecting yourself from the potential damage from a DUI arrest is far more important.
    The above sentence is the last line in your article regarding the DUI Flier. If the individual is “DUI” and tries to utilize your flier, then, hypothetically becomes involved in an accident, not only would the vehicle operator be liable, but the officers at the check-point who allowed this person to proceed (because of the flier) should/would be liable also. The fliers are a hinderance to the LEO trying to do their job.

    Reply
    1. wredlich Post author

      Yes, the Constitution is a hindrance to government efforts to control us.

      I’m sure Michael is deeply concerned with protecting our constitutional rights.

      Reply
      1. Alyson

        What about at the border crossings. I understand this is for dui but could something like this be made with different and proper wordings to match the border crossings? I.e. United states to Mexico or Canada. If you use to put your passports and required information in a bag attached to a string outside of the car with Windows up and doors locked?

        Reply
        1. wredlich Post author

          Border areas are tricky, and not just crossings but anywhere near a border. I would not try this at a border crossing at all.

    2. concernedcitizen

      These pesky things called freedoms and rights are indeed a hindrance. By reading your post I am forced to assume A. You do not think crooked cops exist.

      For example. I had a cop late at night (4AM)pull me over (Apparently I drove home through an area where a country bar had just closed. Didnt find this out until later). I was 22, naive to my rights. He did the usual thing “Have you been drinking?” I replied No, and he said he could smell alcohol on my breath. Up until this point, I still had never consumed alcohol. He had me get out, asked me to take a field sobriety test, said I failed. My car was a mess and he went through every part of it.

      Another cop pulled up and asked him what was going on. The cop knew my dad and knew that I did not drink or do anything… ever…. He smelled my breath and told me to go home. That was the last I heard of it.

      Reply
        1. Chris

          Do you mean unlucky? This man was harassed for DUI and told that he failed when he was stone cold sober. And you find that lucky???

    3. Joe

      “…but the officers at the check-point who allowed this person to proceed (because of the flier) should/would be liable also. ..”
      should/could? No he shouldn’t/wouldn’t

      “The fliers are a hinderance to the LEO trying to do their job.”
      No they’re NOT. Didn’t you watch the cops just wave the driver through.

      Cops post on these sites too.

      Reply
  2. Bdub

    If you have a concealed carry license, would the officers be aware of this during a checkpoint stop? If so and the officer asks about weapons in the car, are you required to respond or would you want to remain silent?
    A flyer for Virginia would be great! Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. wredlich Post author

      That’s a question you’d have to ask a lawyer in your home state. But it seems unlikely that police would know if you have a carry license, and weapons questions would only be appropriate if they were part of the checkpoint guidelines. And that would be an unusual and dubious checkpoint.

      Reply
      1. JAT

        In Ohio, upon running the plates of the vehicle there is a flashing notification on the LEO’s screen that states that the owner, not necessarily the operator, of the vehicle has a concealed carry permit. I’m sure there is also notification upon running driver’s license.

        Reply
      2. Joe

        “That’s a question you’d have to ask a lawyer in your home state. ”

        That quesion will cost a regular law abiding citizen a LOT of $$$ and possibly get a wrong answer.

        In NC a driver has to disclose to the officer he has a conceal carry permit. If the cop runs his license in a check the computer will notify him. If the driver FAILED to disclose that and the cop is notified via computer check the driver just broke the law and…”open the door” (or we will smash your window and remove you by force)

        Reply
        1. TJ

          You only have to notify the officer if you are currently carrying concealed. In NC it is legal to OPEN CARRY. However, it is a good idea when open carrying to notify the officer that you are legally open carrying a firearm.

          Failure to notify of a concealed carry permit while not carrying a firearm is not a crime.

      3. Uncleknubs

        wredlich, on 09/23/2014, answered Bdub’s question;
        If you have a concealed carry license, would the
        officers be aware of this during a checkpoint stop?

        wredlich answered; it seems unlikely that police
        would know if you have a carry license.

        In the State of Oregon, which thankfully had check-points
        removed as a tool years ago, due to intelligent voters
        voting to make them Illegal under state Constitution.
        However, I’ve been pulled over on two occasions for speeding
        and both times after taking my drivers license and looking up
        my record, came back to the car and the officer said, I see you
        have a concealed weapons license, do you have any weapons
        with you at this time, I said of course, neither officer wrote me
        a citation and both basically said okay, slow down and have a nice day.
        So at least in my state they must see it on their computer screens
        after getting your drivers license information, or are informed when
        calling in for it.
        If you just meant they wouldn’t know it without doing this then that
        makes sense and I know each state have their own rules on these,
        but at least in Oregon they see it when looking up your DL records
        on a stop.

        Reply
      4. S. Alex

        I know for a fact that if a person has a concealed carry permit it shows up on police records. I had heard gunshots near my home late one night. When the police arrived they asked me to put my gun in a secure location. I asked themy how they knew…”you have a CC permit, it showed up when we were given your name and address. Wow!

        Just an FYI…YMMV.

        Reply
    1. Vincent

      I’m sure he is not supporting it but merely making everyone aware of the law and how things could go south. I for instance have been charged with a DUI but not for being behind the wheel but merely in the passenger seat intoxicated while my Best friend went inside a motel room to pick his girlfriend up and take her home. Keys were in the ignition and was running at the time with the heater on because of the winter storm we had the day before. Either way the keys were in the ignition and the truck was running. I get told to step out and get told to take a sobriety test I refuse and get arrested. They take me to the hospital and draw blood where I came out at the legal limit of intoxication mind you. So now I have this on my record forever. In this case I wish I had this because in no way would I of jumped behind the wheel nor complied with the cops. I thought I was doing the right thing and I get screwed in the end. F#*k That! I believe in this sign so I thank you guys for coming up with this here in Texas!

      Reply
    2. Jim LaFlamme

      I have a genetic condition that makes my eyelids sag quite a bit. Due to that, I tend to involunariiy tilt my head back a bit to gain a clear line of vision. If I am pulled over for a traffic stop, it is common for the cop to suggest that I have been drinking. I am really getting tired of it. How would I best conduct myself in consideration of this. I had considered printing a brief description with a picture of the condition to keep in the car in the case of a stop.

      Is there a flyer available, or will there be, for North Carolina? Also for Oregon, where I spend a bit of time.

      Reply
    3. Tracy

      He has clearly stated that he is supporting the constitutional rights of innocent people to NOT be illegally detained and searched by a checkpoint based on one cops “hunch” or “bad vibe”, which cannot legally be described as “probable cause” under any laws that I am aware of.

      Reply
  3. A L

    While I am sorry for your luck there, and had a friend of mine go through a similar ordeal. Maybe I’ve been at to many DUI related auto accidents to agree with this cause. I’m sorry but all this screams to me is “I just need to act sober enough to dangle this thing out my window and on down the road I go”.

    Reply
  4. Nat

    Great stuff, thank you.
    I live in British Columbia, Canada and I’m hoping this works up here. I’ll look into our pertinent laws and adjust where necessary. I bought the book.
    If anyone has already done the BC version of the poster I would be very grateful for a copy.
    Thanks folks, really good to see this sort of thing.

    Reply
      1. Erica

        I need one for Indiana. The cops here are so harrassing because they know certain people in my family with a record. Hellooooo thats them not me, i raise my kids not sit around thinking of ways to break the law!.! Please update one for indiana!.!

        Reply
  5. rob

    You can add Minnesota to your flyer too. the statute for producing insurance (but not handing it over) is: 169.791 Subd. 2; the statute for producing a valid driver’s license (but not handing it over) is: 171.08 (but this last statute does indicate that police can ask you to “write your name” so they can verify it’s you (by comparing the signature on the license, I guess). no signature is required for a citation

    “171.08 LICENSEE TO HAVE LICENSE IN POSSESSION.
    Every licensee shall have the license in immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle and shall display it upon demand of a peace officer…The licensee shall also, upon request of any officer, write the licensee’s name in the presence of the officer to determine the identity of the licensee.”

    Reply
  6. Mike Gabacho

    On the subject of less-than-honest cops;
    Many times during my high school years i would get pulled over while out on a date (69 Mach I Mustang),
    – NO loud exhaust
    – NO loud stereo
    – NO squirrely driving trying to impress a girl with my Steve McQueen-like driving skills
    Just out enjoying the evening together.

    I’ve had SEVERAL encounters with both city and county officers who – after looking at my license & registration (all that was required back then) – would then give me the line that
    “Oh, well there was a burglary/robbery a while back …and the suspect car matched yours yours. But you seem okay.” After asking them why i had been pulled over.

    Thing about this line is, in the somewhat rural area where i grew up – my car was the ONLY one painted that particular way in the entire county.
    Once mentioned to one of the officers that had pulled this stunt (for the umpteenth time), that i’d like to see the log for myself, about this ‘suspect vehicle’.
    He gave me some excuse about ‘confidentiality’ of the reports. But didn’t seem to like it when i pointed out that it would HAVE to be me, because MY car was the only one like it in the entire county.
    Then he started saying that he COULD arrest me. But backed down when i threatened to call my family and my lawyer (our next door neighbor) – and that my lawyer would HAVE to have access to the ‘record’ of the ‘suspect vehicle’.

    Cops hate it when you catch them in a lie…especially when under the color of authority.
    After awhile, they quit bothering me.

    Reply
    1. StateofJefferson

      I had an incident similar to this in my youth. Driving home late one night, got pulled over, license, registration, proof of insurance, etc.

      When I asked why I was pulled over, the officer said because I “looked suspicious”.

      I told him I wanted a supervisor to respond immediately as looking suspicious was not sufficient probable cause for the traffic stop.

      He handed me back all my paperwork, told me to have a good night and left.

      I still called in and filed a complaint and I recall that this officer did get some kind of suspension. Not a big deal to them really, as I have taken some Admin. of Justice classes with a now-retired local Captain who told a story how he bought a 5 day suspension for cursing at a juvenile. His response was “I got 5 days off, I went golfing”!

      Oh, and in CA, at least in 2001, if you own a weapon registered in your name, it will show up on the computer. I was sitting with a friend one night in a park and had officers approach my vehicle and ask for my paperwork since I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be (the park was closed). Fair enough, I comply because more often than not, you comply with instructions, you get a warning and you are on your way. I mentioned to my friend they may ask about my firearm (Which was at home locked up as it should be) and to just sit there and be quiet. Sure enough, when they came back, first word out of the officer’s mouth was “Where is your firearm?” I replied “Locked up at home where it should be”. Handed me back my paperwork, told me to leave and have a good night.

      Reply
  7. Iraq & Afghan war vet

    I support what you are doing to the fullest. Too many cops use their badge to abuse the “power” they are given, especially in small towns where the “good Ole boy” network seems to be above the law. Can you please make a flier for Tennessee? I have wrongfully pulled over countless times for no reason except that my brother has been arrested many times for dui and drug related charges. And even though I am a US Marine, I am still treated as a criminal because his actions have tarnished my last name in the small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. And when cops get behind me and run my plates, my last name is automatically their “probable” cause to pull me over and question me about things that have nothing to do with myself.

    Please let me know as soon as you have a flier for Tennessee. And keep up the good work. I wish their were more people like you who would have concern for the law abiding citizens than the cops who will do anything to meet their arrest quota and get off on abusing their power.

    Respectfully,
    Sgt. Rollins
    USMC

    Reply
    1. Tracy

      Even a clearly unlawful/unjust order? Seems legit…..no not really. Seems like an attempt at a power grab by the state. Mr. Officer-“Well, it’s state law so, you must comply now and you can fight it later in court.” Yeah, seems awful fishy. Seems to be a way to collect yet more money by forcing you through the system illegally. When will the madness of these types of “laws” stop? When enough of us get together, get organized, and REPEAL them and keep others from materializing.

      Reply
  8. Cooper

    Please make one for Alabama the cops here are literally the worst I’m talking we have a population of only 8,000 people in our town and we have more than 30 police officers. Yet the high school books in use are falling apart and from the 90s but that’s here nor there. I think using something like this on these cops would make them terribly angry. I would love to be the first one to do it too.

    Reply
  9. Tom

    I see a lot of negative comments here, I don’t get it. The man has helped people with there rights..only to lose money doing so. Your all so worried about DUI drivers just make alcohol illegal period. Bet that changes the tune.

    Reply
  10. PB

    Is this effective in Georgia and does the stated law cases on the flyer conform to Georgia law regarding DUI check points and pull overs

    Reply
  11. Eric

    I’m a disabled Vet on quite a few meds. These meds have no impairment affect on my motor-skills or thinking process but I’ve been told by a VA nurse that I technically should not be operating a motor vehicle on these meds simply b/c I could be charged with a DUI if the cops asked for a blood test. Would you advise using a version of this flyer for everyday traffic stops if you take meds on a regular basis that could be in your bloodstream??? And if so, is there any chance you could make an Idaho version??? We don’t have to worry about DUI checkpoints in Idaho b/c they are un-Constitutional and therefore illegal. I could see where something like this might be beneficial in a traffic stop though. It would be awesome to get a MT and WA version as well. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Jason

    For anyone that has one of these for their state and is thinking of using it at a DUI checkpoint, I recommend doing what was demonstrated in one particular video: put the flyer, your valid driver’s license, registration and/or proof of insurance into a large clear plastic ziplock bag, and use a piece of string to dangle it out the driver’s window. Just make sure that it hangs below the window so that we can see inside; someone in the near future is going to use one of these flyers as a distraction (and a cover) to pull a gun and shoot an officer, and that’s what we have to think about if you’re blocking your window with one of these. Once you’re leaving the checkpoint, if the bag is still dangling outside, please don’t try to pull it in while you’re driving. Pull into the next nearest available parking lot or side street, come to a stop, and then pull it in.

    Something to keep in mind, however: If an officer at a checkpoint or a traffic stop orders you to get out of the car, he/she is covered by Pennsylvania v. Mimms (1977). If you don’t get out, it can be construed as obstruction, and a broken window and forced extraction could follow.

    Reply
  13. Kevin

    I hope that a drunk driver that uses this card leaves a checkpoint and slams into the car of the creator of this. Karma is a bitch!

    Reply
  14. Tracy

    May be a bit off topic, but, regarding the license. I have a friend who has successfully argued a case against the legal necessity of having a picture license. Now, I can’t personally find the case, yet, but the gist of it is that someone tried to sue their state and DMV/BMV and LOST when the lawyer for the defense claimed that the DMV/BMV could not be included and sued because they were NOT a government agency, but rather, under the letter of the law, were/are a PRIVATE MOTOR CLUB.

    My friend then used THAT case to argue that the state had no legal precedence to charge him with not having a license since that would violate constitutional law stating that no government or gov. agency can legally compel citizens to purchase goods or services from private entities, which, under that case, each states’ DMV/BMV would be.

    Have you any knowledge of such things? If this is the case, then I back an effort to end the license requirement OR a change that states if a license will be required, the cost of said license should be paid by the state….but that second one is a bit of a bummer because the state can only use taxpayer money to do so. So one way or another, citizens wind up paying for them, which is why I would rather see the license requirement taken away completely. Problem is, there will still be a need for some sort of identification. So, in the end, even a state issued ID card will cost to manufacture, and, even if there is no “on the spot” fee to get one, they will simply raise taxes to cover the cost.

    It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

    Reply
  15. Gregg 3 Gs

    I might add one more thing that police are thinking: get promoted and get glory from peers, supervisors, and the community.

    MADD and other organizations that purport to combat drunk driving hold annual award dinners. The main criteria they laud is the number of arrests an officer has made; to my knowledge, they don’t investigate the quality of the arrests or the outcome of the cases. Make 100 arrests and the officer gets the Century Award, 200 the Double Century Award, and so forth with Triple Century and Quadruple Century. I believe this taints (or further taints) the objectivity of the law enforcement officer, as the allure of being celebrated in front of their colleagues and the community is powerful and causes them to try to rack up an arrest “high score,” rather than objectively and meticulously determine the facts; they get no glory for investigating and determining a driver was sober, and it doesn’t get them closer to the next level of MADD award. Such awards should be outlawed. The police get a salary to do their job.

    Reply
  16. Silence

    I appreciate your efforts and understand why this is important. This past year I was forced to take a plea deal for a “wet reckless” in a case where I was about 100ft from my car and did not even have the keys on me. In one of the classes that I was forced to take, I met people who were asleep in the back seat of the car and ended up with a DUI. I met a disabled vet who limped out of a bar since his spine was damaged and was tested and arrested before even stepping into the parking lot. These laws are being stretched to the boundaries of sanity and will be stretched even further unless someone pushes back. I guess I should have fought in my case but my lawyer advised me that it would be stupid to take the chance and trust a jury who pretty much decides you’re guilty as soon as they hear that you were arrested for DUI. Propaganda over many years by neoprohibitionist groups has really brainwashed the public and they don’t snap out of it until they have a glass of wine with dinner and end up in a jail cell crying and thinking that they are not one of “them”. I’ve also personally seen several officers drink and drive, even once watching one stumble out of a barbecue that I attended and leave in his patrol car. The laws are screwed up and these checkpoints are just a further extension of this nonsense.

    Reply
  17. Tasha

    I have an idea, don’t drink and drive. As someone who will have lifelong disabilities because of a drunk driver I see no issue in stop checks and have no problem talking to cops at them.

    Reply
  18. Dirty Doggg

    Sometimes police are not virtuous. They want to make a name for themselves. They take drunk drivers off the road but they also take people who aren’t drunk. They concoct testimony and discard exculpatory readings so they can get their dinner and their “Cop of the Year” award for making the most DUI arrests. They construe everything in the most incriminating light possible. Bloodshot eyes? Must be drunk! Never mind that there are lots of other reasons why people might have bloodshot eyes. Maybe if police departments didn’t exclude highly intelligent people from being police (à la Robert Jordan vs. City of New London 2000) and if they hired people with critical thinking skills it would be different.

    Reply
    1. Tom Smith

      Intelligent people don’t want to be cops. Bullies and the simple minded are attracted to law enforcement careers because respect can be appointedinstead of earned.
      All that aside, sure there are some ‘good’ cops, but like gun owners (UNLIKE muslims), a few bad apples spoil the whole darn bunch.
      But I don’t mind drunk stops. If you’re sober and you don’t give them any sh@#, they have plenty of other targets they focus on.

      Reply
  19. ron duncan

    On December 31, 2001 ,i was in texas helping a friend start a new const. bus., when i received a phone call at approx. 11;00 pm from that friend who asked if i could come get him from a bar because he couldn’t drive and there were 2 squad cars up on a hill over looking the bar , apparently waiting for drunks to leave. As i got there , my friend climbed into my truck and we drove off towards home. One of the cops quickly got behind me and i felt he was going to pull me over because i had out of state tags. He turned on his lights and i pulled over , feeling i was safe since i hadn’t been drinking. He said i was doing 37 in a 35 mph zone, YEAH , i thought the same thing you are. He then asked me how much i had to drink and i replied nothing , however , he said i smelled like a ” whisky bottle ” , and when i tried to explain that it was my buddy , not me , he arrested me for suspicion ( sic ) of DUI. I cooperated felling i would take there test and be on my way. Once we got to the station , it was now New Years Eve and i said happy new years to the cops there . All of a sudden another cop came in saying he checked my record and it showed i did some time some 30 years past and then raised my cuffed hands up behind me and lowered my head down and then proceeded to ram my head into a concrete wall , saying , ” well your in my house now “. I spent 2 days there before bailing out and then filed assault and battery charges against that idiot. I have no idea the outcome because i left Texas as soon as i finalized the dui charge and oh , I was convicted of DUI , even tho the breatherlizer showed no booze in my system. So I’m living proof that there are bad cops out there.

    Reply
  20. Robert Luke

    Please post a flyer for Mississippi. With the holidays coming soon, the MS Highway Patrol and local agencies will be conducting these checkpoints statewide. Sometimes the boundaries of the law are stretched to the point of absurdity just to get some favorable newspaper publicity and use some of the money from the fines to fund another academy class of Robocop wannabes.

    Reply

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