Stopped For A Traffic Violation

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

You’re driving along your merry way, fat, dumb and happy. You suddenly see flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Oh crap! I’m carrying! What do I do?

First of all, don’t panic, that is, assuming you have a concealed carry permit. It is perfectly legal to carry concealed in your vehicle.

Second, the officer(s) will pull up behind you and begin to run your car’s license plate. At this point, the only thing they know is who the car is registered to, be it your vehicle or someone else’s vehicle.

While they are working their computer, do yourself a favor and undertake some preliminary actions so your encounter with law enforcement will go as smoothly as possible.

First, if you are a right-handed shooter with your firearm on your right hip, and your wallet containing your driver’s license is in your back pocket, you will need to unbuckle the seat belt in order to reach your hand around and get out your wallet. If the officer is standing at your driver’s side door, it will be difficult to remove the seatbelt and NOT have the officer see your holster, or that you may possibly be printing. So do yourself a favor, do what you can to get out your wallet while the officer is still in the patrol car. You know you will be asked for your license and registration anyway, so why not pre-empt those questions. But be careful if you need to unbuckle your seat belt to do so. Some officers will cite you for not wearing a seat belt.

Second, give the officer(s) every advantage possible that you are not a threat to them. Turn off the engine. Turn off the radio. Open ALL the windows. If it is dark, turn on the dome light. Place your hands on the steering wheel at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions, and wait. If someone is in the front passenger seat, have them put their hands on the dashboard. Use your kids buckled in their car seat to your advantage. If there are kids in the car with you, the probability of you being a wanted fugitive is probably very low. At this point, you are simply a parent who drove a little too fast or blew a stop sign.

Third, as the officer(s) approach(es) you and ask for your license and registration, it is up to you if you disclose that you have a concealed gun. Again, in Pennsylvania, there is no duty to inform the officer(s). The officer will take your license and run it to see if you have anything which is a red flag to them, such as outstanding warrants. Included in the results will be your concealed carry permit number, because your permit is tied to your driver’s license number. So, at this point, once the officer(s) run your driver’s license they know you have a concealed carry permit. What they don’t know is whether or not you have your gun on you right now.

Now, keep in mind that you do NOT have to inform the officer(s) that you have a permit. They already know that. However, if asked, you must produce it. It will be up to you whether or not to inform the officer(s) that you are actually carrying at that moment. But, keep in mind, if they see your firearm, they have every legal right to ask you for your concealed carry permit, and undoubtedly will. If you do not have your permit on you, your situation just went from perhaps a simple ticket to something more extreme. Remember, if you carry, your permit better be with you. The officer(s) will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, ask you not to touch your firearm.  So…HANDS OFF IT!

If you decide to inform the officer(s) that you are carrying, use something along the following phrases:

  • “officer, I have a concealed carry permit and I am carrying, how do you want to handle this?”, or
  • “officer, I have a concealed carry permit and I am carrying, what do you want me to do?”

Either of these statements imply you are being cooperative and are willing to follow the officer(s)’ commands, not giving them any trouble. Put the decision on what to do back at the officer(s).

The officer will instruct you to what they want you to do. Under no circumstances, reach for your firearm. Most conceal carry holders are law-abiding citizens and the police know that. But that doesn’t mean you can take your act of cooperation for granted. Some officers simply don’t like guns in the hands of civilians.

If you are stupid enough to store your firearm in the glove-box where your registration is, you must inform the officer that both your firearm and your registration are in the glove-box and you cannot get the registration without opening the glove-box. If this is the situation, ask the officer how the situation should be handled. If not, and you open the glove-box, exposing your firearm, the officer(s) may draw on you.

Your goal is to get off with either no ticket, or a reduced charge ticket, perhaps something that is not a moving violation, which add points to your driving record. Your goal is not to end up in the back seat of the patrol car. So just be a cooperative, law abiding (except for the speeding thing) concealed carry gun owner.

Stopped For A Traffic Violation Read More »