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  1. #1
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Arguing with the cops doesn't work

    I was surfing YouTube and found a fair number of videos of cyclists and motorists who taped their arguments with law enforcement officers over traffic violations or similar matters. This tactic never works and usually results in the officer citing you for every infraction and count he/she can think of.

    If you don't think a law is fair, that isn't the officer's problem, it is the law and it is his duty to enforce it. Even if you think the officer is in the wrong, remain calm and civil. Most of the time an officer has some discretion in writing tickets, so your attitude can make a difference. Yes, there are some officers out there who are full of themselves but these are also the ones you have the least chance of winning an argument with and the highest likelyhood that they will rack up the charges if you get in their face.

    You have the right to read the ticket before signing it. I'm not sure if this is true in every jurisdiction, but in the tri-state area around here, signing the ticket is just acknowledgement that you understand the charges and have the right to appear in court or to waive your court appearance and pay the fine. In every case I have encountered signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt.

    If you feel that the officer is wrong or that the penalties are excessive, you can appear in traffic court and state your case. Again, attitude and record are everything. Judges have even wider discretion than officers and can drop or alter charges and set the fine anywhere between the minimum and maximum allowed.

    It is legal for you to video an officer during the stop but it is in your best interest to do so unobtrusively rather than in a confrontational manner. Set the camera or your phone on the dash where it will capture what is needed and just let it run. Remember, the officer is likely also video taping or at least recording you as well and that record will follow you to court. If you are the one being hostile and confrontational, kiss any chance of a reduction in fine goodbye.

    Judges don't like having their time wasted, by you or the officer. While it might not happen in open court, I know that some officers have been admonished by judges or department superiors for writing excessively punative citations or citations that are not adequately based in the law.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  2. #2
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    I was surfing YouTube and found a fair number of videos of cyclists and motorists who taped their arguments with law enforcement officers over traffic violations or similar matters. This tactic never works and usually results in the officer citing you for every infraction and count he/she can think of.

    If you don't think a law is fair, that isn't the officer's problem, it is the law and it is his duty to enforce it. Even if you think the officer is in the wrong, remain calm and civil. Most of the time an officer has some discretion in writing tickets, so your attitude can make a difference. Yes, there are some officers out there who are full of themselves but these are also the ones you have the least chance of winning an argument with and the highest likelyhood that they will rack up the charges if you get in their face.

    You have the right to read the ticket before signing it. I'm not sure if this is true in every jurisdiction, but in the tri-state area around here, signing the ticket is just acknowledgement that you understand the charges and have the right to appear in court or to waive your court appearance and pay the fine. In every case I have encountered signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt.

    If you feel that the officer is wrong or that the penalties are excessive, you can appear in traffic court and state your case. Again, attitude and record are everything. Judges have even wider discretion than officers and can drop or alter charges and set the fine anywhere between the minimum and maximum allowed.

    It is legal for you to video an officer during the stop but it is in your best interest to do so unobtrusively rather than in a confrontational manner. Set the camera or your phone on the dash where it will capture what is needed and just let it run. Remember, the officer is likely also video taping or at least recording you as well and that record will follow you to court. If you are the one being hostile and confrontational, kiss any chance of a reduction in fine goodbye.

    Judges don't like having their time wasted, by you or the officer. While it might not happen in open court, I know that some officers have been admonished by judges or department superiors for writing excessively punative citations or citations that are not adequately based in the law.
    I partially beg to differ.

    Several years ago, I was stopped by LEO, because he thought I was drunk. I found out the reason he thought I was drunk, was because, I was weaving from having poorly taken a turn. So, While I wasn't weaving intentionally, I told the officer that I could definitely see why he thought I was drunk.

    A second situation was where I was pulled over for being on the sidewalk. When the officer told me there was a law about riding on the sidewalk, I told the officer that was nuts(not the officer, but the law), because while I can ride fast, there are kids that can't. The city that surrounds the town I live in, has an ordinance dating back to 1957, when the size of the city was nowhere near, what it is 55yrs. later. I also found out, the reason for the ordinance going into affect was because people were complaining about kids riding their bikes' on the sidewalk. I have been trying to get the ordinance taken off the books, for the sake of the kids.
    Last edited by Chris516; 10-11-12 at 08:01 AM.

  3. #3
    ouate de phoque dramiscram's Avatar
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    In Quebec you don't have to sign the ticket, They give it to you anyway and you have 30 days to pay or to advise them you'll go to court. I've had two speeding ticket in my life and I have been very polite with the cops and each time they reduced the speed on the ticket and, by doing so, saved me a lot of money.
    So I totaly agree with the OP
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  4. #4
    genec genec's Avatar
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    In every situation in which I have been confronted by the police, I have found that acting in a cordial, polite and professional manner has yielded the same from the officer... even when the officer started with what seemed to be a confrontational attitude. Yes, I have been ticketed, but rarely... (never on a bike), most situations resulted in mere warnings.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Hendricks97's Avatar
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    Ive been pulled over on my bike twice in the last week for taking the lane. I argued my case citing the laws, even giving specific section numbers. I wasn't doing anything illegal and there was nothing that they could ticket me for, so I felt free to argue civilly and both times, I was let off.

  6. #6
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    Alas, I have quite a bit of experience in this subject (i.e., being pulled over ---not arguing with the officer). There is never a good result from arguing in a hostile tone. The cop will find something to ticket you for.
    Forcefully but respectfully making your case is another matter. As a matter of fact, that happened to me this morning - he claimed I "almost ran a stop sign" and also clocked me above the speed limit. I pointed out I made a full stop at the correct spot at the stop sign, and acknowledged I wasn't watching my speedometer so might have been over the limit and apologized for that. He let me go, ticket-free. What I'd like to know, but didn't argue with him about it, is how does one almost run a stop sign???

  7. #7
    Senior Member silmarillion's Avatar
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    I will always give due respect to police officers.

    I consider myself to be one of the good guys, but I do think certain things can happen that IMHO, that thwarts any authority they may have to a point.

    This is an incident that happened to me on Monday morning. Police are police. They have certain obligations of office, but cops should never be able to harass citizens if they are having a bad day.

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...e-of-authority
    "Whenever you think you have something dummy-proof, someone builds a better idiot." - Wisdom overheard on the BF

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Has anyone here ever considered taking a ticket, just so you could argue the case (with lawyer) in front of a judge to make the point that police may be interpreting the law incorrectly?

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    Nobody mconlonx's Avatar
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    I'm polite and cordial when I get pulled over. Also as helpful as I can be -- turn on dome lights, keep both hands on the wheel, no sudden moves. It has saved me from tickets, for sure.

    Where I start getting a bit testy is when, in the course of being pulled over, I get the inevitable fishing expedition: where you going, where you coming from? Once, when the answers were "home" and "from work" the follow-up question "Why are you driving this route?" really got me worked up, but I just replied simply "because it's shorter." Or when I am asked for my papers before being appraised of the reason for the request.

    Police start losing my respect in increments as they implement various techniques to get me to voluntarily give up rights outlined as inalienable in the Constitution they swore to uphold... On the pretext of being "polite," and with the big stick of due enforcement hanging out there if you don't play their game.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DeadheadSF's Avatar
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    Yes, be polite and non-confrontational, but don't answer ANY questions - ever. Hand them your ID and no more. Ask if you're being detained or if you're free to go. If you're being detained, you have a right to know why. Use your rights or lose them (as we mostly have in the USA). Don't forget, they're thugs and looking for an opportunity/excuse to behave like thugs - they're dangerous animals.

    Anything you say to them WILL be used against you, guaranteed, no matter how innocent you are.
    What a looooooooooooooooooong strange trip it's been...

  11. #11
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Has anyone here ever considered taking a ticket, just so you could argue the case (with lawyer) in front of a judge to make the point that police may be interpreting the law incorrectly?
    Mr Reed Bates (Chip Seal) of Texas has a blog about some of his court appearances for multiple bicycle tickets. Interesting reading for anyone who intends to pursue such cases in court without a lawyer. http://chipsea.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Mr Reed Bates (Chip Seal) of Texas has a blog about some of his court appearances for multiple bicycle tickets. Interesting reading for anyone who intends to pursue such cases in court without a lawyer. http://chipsea.blogspot.com/
    Very familiar with the Chip Seal situation... his biggest problem was not retaining legal representation... I understand he had limited means at that point, but defending one's self is often a fool's game. Few of us non legal types fully comprehend all the trappings of the modern courtroom.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    I was surfing YouTube and found a fair number of videos of cyclists and motorists who taped their arguments with law enforcement officers over traffic violations or similar matters. This tactic never works and usually results in the officer citing you for every infraction and count he/she can think of.
    I agree with you that arguing with the police rarely works (sometimes a gentle disagreement can, but once it gets to the point of an argument you've already lost -- time to either lick your wounds and just pay the fine or fight it in court, where you might lose again even if you're in the right.)

    This shouldn't be news to anybody -- it should be on of the first things anybody teaches their children once they hit teenage years or so, and certainly by the time they reach driving age.

    However, I should point out that what you find on youtube isn't really representative of what really happens. People only post their extreme interactions with the police on youtube -- anything that goes well isn't likely to be very interesting, so it doesn't get posted. So don't base anything on what you see on youtube -- think of youtube as a place to see what happens when things go wrong, not how often things go wrong.

  14. #14
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Several years ago, I was stopped by LEO, because he thought I was drunk. I found out the reason he thought I was drunk, was because, I was weaving from having poorly taken a turn. So, While I wasn't weaving intentionally, I told the officer that I could definitely see why he thought I was drunk.
    Perhaps arguing was too vague a term. Explaining yourself or your actions in a civil and polite manner may indeed help your situation. What I meant by "arguing" was to become hostile and confrontational.

    what you find on youtube isn't really representative of what really happens. People only post their extreme interactions with the police on youtube
    think of youtube as a place to see what happens when things go wrong
    Agreed.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  15. #15
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadheadSF View Post
    Yes, be polite and non-confrontational, but don't answer ANY questions - ever. Hand them your ID and no more. Ask if you're being detained or if you're free to go. If you're being detained, you have a right to know why. Use your rights or lose them (as we mostly have in the USA). Don't forget, they're thugs and looking for an opportunity/excuse to behave like thugs - they're dangerous animals.

    Anything you say to them WILL be used against you, guaranteed, no matter how innocent you are.
    Bull. Some are most are not. But if has you opinions and attitides you will quickly find they cut you no slack.

    I've walked on 2 obvious speeding tickets by answering their questions and had one other speeding ticket drastically reduced. And perhaps responding decently to the officers opening line:

    "Sir, do you know how long it took me to catch you?"

    I don't know the max he clocked me at, I know I was at 105 and got written up for 65.

    Both the speeding ones I walked on were over 80 and I thnik the first of them was back in hte days of a 55 MPH limit. It does help to respond "No, Sir" when the officer asks if you have $40 you just want to throw away.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  16. #16
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    If you're in Fort Worth, don't bother arguing with a cop who rides in a car marked "T" on the C-pillar roof support. If it is N, S, E, W, or C, you might talk them out of a ticket, because they are just beat cops in the North, South, East, West, or Central areas. But T cops are on Traffic detail. Their sole purpose is to give out traffic tickets. The Traffic Division cops are, according to a cop from the South Division, the people whose mommas didn't love them.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  17. #17
    Senior Member silmarillion's Avatar
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    I agree with all sentiments about respecting authority.

    This guy pulled me over, misrepresented himself by calling himself a federal officer, un-uniformed, unmarked vehicle (champagne colored Cadillac SUV)

    I did exactly what he asked of me. I gave him my license, and proof of insurance. He ordered me out of the car, and I went...I listened to him gripe ad nauseum about his chipped windshield.

    It was only when he decided that he didn't have to prove to me that he was who he said he was, that I lost my patience. When he did that I told him exactly what he could kiss, and went back to my vehicle and called 911.

    The local cops didn't support his BS, and my insurance company said they won't either.

    I would be really surprised if I hear anymore about that.

    I noticed when the local cops showed up, and after they spoke with me, they went back to him. I don't know what was being said, but the local cop was pointing his finger at him in what appeared to be a heated discussion. He came back to my vehicle and said I had done nothing wrong and was free to go.
    "Whenever you think you have something dummy-proof, someone builds a better idiot." - Wisdom overheard on the BF

  18. #18
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Mr Reed Bates (Chip Seal) of Texas has a blog about some of his court appearances for multiple bicycle tickets. Interesting reading for anyone who intends to pursue such cases in court without a lawyer. http://chipsea.blogspot.com/
    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Very familiar with the Chip Seal situation... his biggest problem was not retaining legal representation... I understand he had limited means at that point, but defending one's self is often a fool's game. Few of us non legal types fully comprehend all the trappings of the modern courtroom.
    I looked at his blog and noticed something. He mentioned about the differing laws. Like the example Chip Seal cited in his blog, the situation state/county/cities is this:

    1. The state says no riding on the sidewalk. But they give the counties the choice to agree/disagree.

    2. My county says riding on the sidewalk is allowed, but gives the individual cities the choice to agree/disagree.

    3. The city that surrounds the town I live in, has since 1957, banned riding on the sidewalk. The neighboring cities do allow riding on the sidewalk.

    I ride on the road, and 'take the lane', all the time. As a way to avoid all the confusion of the differing jurisdictional laws/ordinances.

  19. #19
    Senior Member silmarillion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris516 View Post
    I ride on the road, and 'take the lane', all the time. As a way to avoid all the confusion of the differing jurisdictional laws/ordinances.
    I think the word has gotten out here in Georgia enough that *most* people know that a bike on the road is just like a car. The 3 foot law is still fairly new, but many people seem to know it's law. I don't really know how though.

    I take the lane when I need to. I'll tell you though, there are a lot of idiots on the road who will run you over. Not intentionally mind you, but I see it all the time. People who are talking on the phone, texting or just simply not paying attention.

    I asked a cop about a particular intersection that people always turn in a straight lane. I asked if it would be better If I just went to the outside of that lane. The officer said I would be ticketed for an improper lane change. Same with proceeding through a red light at an intersection after a stop. It's still a red light. The law says that you can't pass the white stripe on red. Ever. Weird law.
    "Whenever you think you have something dummy-proof, someone builds a better idiot." - Wisdom overheard on the BF

  20. #20
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silmarillion View Post
    I think the word has gotten out here in Georgia enough that *most* people know that a bike on the road is just like a car. The 3 foot law is still fairly new, but many people seem to know it's law. I don't really know how though.
    At least they do know. Who cares how they know. Unless they know about it, and don't care.

    Quote Originally Posted by silmarillion View Post
    I take the lane when I need to. I'll tell you though, there are a lot of idiots on the road who will run you over. Not intentionally mind you, but I see it all the time. People who are talking on the phone, texting or just simply not paying attention.
    Yes, I know there are idiots on the road. I am looking for them all the time. To me, every motorist is an idiot, until they show otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by silmarillion View Post
    I asked a cop about a particular intersection that people always turn in a straight lane. I asked if it would be better If I just went to the outside of that lane. The officer said I would be ticketed for an improper lane change. Same with proceeding through a red light at an intersection after a stop. It's still a red light. The law says that you can't pass the white stripe on red. Ever. Weird law.
    Can you explain this in more detail. I tried to visualize it. But I keep getting confused about what you are referring to. Do you mean the white line, where you are supposed to stop, when the light is red?

  21. #21
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    Perhaps arguing was too vague a term. Explaining yourself or your actions in a civil and polite manner may indeed help your situation. What I meant by "arguing" was to become hostile and confrontational.
    That would be a sure ticket to jail, with no 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card.

  22. #22
    Senior Member silmarillion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris516 View Post
    Can you explain this in more detail. I tried to visualize it. But I keep getting confused about what you are referring to. Do you mean the white line, where you are supposed to stop, when the light is red?
    I was in part, referring to this thread..http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-new-complaint

    Anyway, about a week ago there was a city cop sitting outside the shop one morning as I was pulling in on my bike. (they like to hide near the building and catch speeders as they fly down the road..) So we said the complimentary good mornings and he asked if I was the guy he'd passed earlier. (I was..)

    So while I had his ear, I asked him if I could get his advice..we started talking about that darn intersection. He agreed with me and told me they ticket people there for two reasons. 1 that the arrow points directly forward. 2 there are no guide lines like there are on the other side of the intersection (in photo)

    He said that a bike on the road would be treated exactly like a car would, and probably more so because a cyclist has more to loose by not obeying the law. He also said that if someone were hit on a bicycle, they would technically be void of the 3 foot law because they were not following the rules of the road.

    He did agree with me that the intersection isn't very well planned.

    So we started talking about another intersection I have mentioned before in this forum. I can trigger the light by standing over the pad, but the darnedest thing...the green light will signal for the opposite side of the intersection, but not for me. And I'm the only person around for miles at that time of the morning.

    He told me that technically ( this officer was into the "technicality" of enforcement...) A cyclist can't pass the white line at a red light (before the intersection, many intersections here are that way, although I don't exactly agree with his interpretation..)

    So while I'm explaining my point to him, he asks me " why don't you just take the right at the intersection, you merge into traffic there. At that time of morning you probably wouldn't even have to stop."

    I told him this was simply not possible. It would take about 2.5 miles off of my commute.

    He looked a bit dazed by that revelation, and said something to the effect of "I don't make laws just enforce them." Approach.
    "Whenever you think you have something dummy-proof, someone builds a better idiot." - Wisdom overheard on the BF

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadheadSF View Post
    ... If you're being detained, you have a right to know why. ....
    Perhaps in CA but not in WA. This is most likely dependent on each state's case law.
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    Quote Originally Posted by silmarillion View Post
    I was in part, referring to this thread..http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-new-complaint

    ... He told me that technically ( this officer was into the "technicality" of enforcement...) ....
    The law is very technical and the police are not allowed in any state to make up laws. Rather, they are required to interpret the statutory law and case law already in place. If that officer was into the "technicality of enforcement" I would interpret that to mean the officer was trying to enforce the law appropriately and not make $h!t up. Sounds like a good cop to me.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member tergal's Avatar
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    I tend to find that the police are people (shock horror) and they are just doing their job. I try to be polite and if i disagree i talk to them and keep it civil. This tends to apply to more than just police officers .

    I have been checked for drunk riding before , i thought it was funny. It happened after a very long ride (for me) and i was just recovering from a cold so it was not a good ride and i had a little trouble hold a perfectly straight line .

    HE checked me , did a once over on the bike and then asked if i was ok to make it home or did i want him to call a family member to come get me .
    Tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to use sarcasm.

    Early helplessness is the price we pay for later brilliance. Or, at least our later capacity for non-idiocy

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