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"What To Do If You Get Pulled Over"
You’re driving down the road, seemingly minding your own business. Suddenly you see a police car behind you. You hear sirens and see blue lights flashing. What do you do? “Are they pulling me over?,” you ask yourself. Your heart begins to race. “What did I do? Are they going somewhere else?”
Has this ever happened to you?
Getting pulled over by the police is never a happy experience. It can be stressful, especially if you feel you have done nothing wrong. As a Lilburn Police Officer, I can understand how that must feel. Most drivers getting pulled over are good drivers who have been observed committing a traffic offense. These violations can either end with a warning or a written citation from the officer. This month’s Safety Zone will give you some valuable advice if you or someone you know is cited and is scheduled to appear in court.
First things first.
Look for the first place to safely pull off the roadway. Preferably a parking lot or at least to the right side of the road away from traffic. Roll your window down. Wait for the officer to approach. NEVER, and I mean NEVER, get out of your vehicle, and approach the patrol car.
Police officers have a difficult job as it is and don’t know who they are pulling over. They are trained to control the area of the traffic stop and all the hazards of the surrounding road. This is for the officer’s safety and the driver. Sudden movements and approaching a patrol car could be perceived as a threat. Remember, we all have families to go home to. We want everyone to leave safely with as little inconvenience as possible.
Now let’s say the driver has been issued a citation for the violation. It’s not the end of the world. The officer will explain the violation and give instructions on when and where the court date is scheduled. They will also explain how to pay the fine if they so choose if it’s not a charge that requires their presence. Or the driver can appear in court on the accusation from the officer. The officer will explain that, by signing the citation, it’s NOT an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement of the charge and court date.
Some drivers facing a charge feel that by signing the citation, they are admitting guilt and refuse to sign it. This is not the case at all. The officer will again explain it and hopes the driver will comply, because by state law, the citation requires a signature or the driver will be arrested at the scene and transported to jail to post a cash bond on the charge. The vehicle will be impounded at the scene and at the owner’s expense unless the driver can make arrangement for someone to retrieve it.
Who has time and the money for this?
This is NOT the time to argue the validity of the traffic stop or the charge. That’s done in Traffic Court. It’s simply an accusation of an offense committed. If you don’t agree with it, sign the citation, and let a judge hear your case. That is your right as a driver. Like I said, no one wants to hold up anyone longer than they must. Just come to court on the court date. What drivers need to understand, that by signing the citation, the driver is posting his or her driver’s license in lieu of bail. If the driver doesn’t show up for court, a failure to appear warrant will be issued for the driver. The license information is forwarded to the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles for suspension.
Again, who has time and the money for that?
So, the day of your court date has arrived. Please arrive on time to check-in. The Lilburn Municipal Court has been set up post COVID-19 to ease check-in procedures. However, only the first 20 people will be let in first. Everyone else will check-in and be sent to their vehicles and receive a text message to come in the order they came in. This can take awhile to get a complete court docket processed, so be prepared and be patient.
The Lilburn Municipal Court has a very friendly and competent staff ready to assist. People awaiting to see the Court Judge will see the Lilburn Court Solicitor first. The solicitor can make recommendations on the case. The case can be reduced, amended, or dismissed based on driver’s history and facts of the case. The driver can also have a bench trial or bind the case over to Gwinnett State Court. Either way, the Lilburn Municipal Court strives to resolve the case so the driver can get back to their business.
Many times, I’ve heard in court that the driver did not know his or her driver’s license was suspended. Or that they didn’t know that their vehicle or a friend’s vehicle they were driving, was not insured. That is the responsibility of the driver to know this. Also, I hear that a driver didn’t know that their brake lights, tag light or turn signals were inoperable. Again, these are things that the driver must check.
Here are some tips that can help Georgia drivers. There is an App that drivers can download. Go to your App Store and download “DDS 2 GO” You can see that your Georgia Driver’s license is valid and view 2 years of your driving history for free. Drivers can also go to Georgia.gov, click on the GEORGIA DRIVES e-SERVICES, there you can enter a tag number or VIN and receive insurance status and registration status of your vehicle. This is valuable information if you are driving a family member’s or friend’s vehicle.
It's also important to remember AND Georgia State law to change your address on your license when you move and have your mail forwarded to your new address. Why is this so important? Any correspondent mail from the court to the driver will go to the address on the license.
The Lilburn Police Department works tirelessly on traffic enforcement to keep us all safe every day. Traffic accidents and injuries are increasing due to speeding, distracted driving, and impatient drivers taking chances on our city roadways. Getting a citation is not the end of the world, however, a simple citation can turn into much more by making the traffic stop complicated, not showing up for court, and having your driver’s license go to suspension.
Take advantage of the court services offered if you are stopped and cited. But before that happen, slow down. Put the phone away. Obey the traffic laws so we don’t have to meet that way in the first place!
Stay safe Lilburn!