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Stopped by an unmarked police car

Most state traffic laws require drivers to immediately yield to authorized emergency vehicles that are making use of their visual or audible signals and that drivers shall yield right-of-way when possible by moving to the right hand edge or roadway curb, clear of any intersection, and stop. This is the law, and failure to obey the law may result in fines, court appearances, and incarceration. Some of the more advanced police agencies (like the New York State Police) never use unmarked patrol cars for routine traffic stops. Unfortunately, even in New York State many other municipal police agencies have not yet adopted this policy.

Predators have posed as police officers. Just recently Lacy Jo Miller a University of Northern Colorado education student lost her life at the hands Jason Claussen who abducted Lacy only minutes way from her Fort Collins home. Her molested and burned body was found days later in a remote wooded area. Again, following the safety advice below may have you explaining your actions to a police shift supervisor or a judge. If you are concerned about the legitimacy of an unmarked vehicle attempting to stop you (especially if you feel that you were doing nothing wrong), safely proceed a short distance in a non-evasive manner, to a well-lit, public place.

Your goal at this point is to find an open gas station, restaurant, hospital, hotel, fire station, police station any place that will have people (witnesses).

Most police officer are trained to radio for backup, when the car that they are attempting to stop refuses to pull over. You are likely to see more police cars in a few minutes. Remember do not try to speed away, or drive evasively. Stay well under the speed limit and turn on your interior lights (dome light). This is done to illuminate your cars interior and help make the officer feel safer.

Switch on your four way hazard flashers. Using the hazard flashers provides officers an indication that you are at least aware of the police behind you.

If you can not get to such a location and are forced to stop:
  • Only roll down the car window enough to hear the officer and pass documents. Drivers should never exit their car until told to do so by a law enforcement officer.
  • If you are told to exit the vehicle and you feel unsafe, stay in your vehicle. Do not let yourself be intimidated by the voice commands of the officer. Act on your instincts and stay firm on your decision to remain in the car. Do not ignore the officer. Show respect to the officer by staying calm and do not use profanity. Understand that a police officer working alone pulling over a car with unknown occupants at nigh in a secluded area is dangerous for him as well.
  • Do not take this information out of context. When you have a genuine concern for your safety and fear that something just does not seem right then you must acts on your instincts.
  • Look for an authentic law enforcement uniform. If still unsure or the officer is wearing plain cloths, you could ask to see official credentials including photo law enforcement identification and accompanying law enforcement badge. More importantly listen to what the officer is saying does it make sense.
  • Use your cell phone to call 911 and check the validity of the officer with the dispatch center. This requires you to know your exact street location.
  • If still concerned, ask to have a uniformed officer in a marked vehicle respond.
  • It is very important you to remember that taking these basic safety steps when stopped by an unmarked law enforcement vehicle does not absolve you from the duty to yield and stop or from the responsibility to follow lawful orders or directions from a peace officer. You may have to explain your actions and safety concern in court