What To Do When You Are Pulled Over?

In the busy world today, where everyone commutes by motor vehicle, being stopped by traffic police in the middle of the way is a widespread scenario for most commuters on the road. A commuter may get pulled over by the police for violating specific traffic regulations, or it might just be a routine check where the traffic police on purpose, is checking the driving license of the driver and the registered papers of the vehicle. Since the traffic police are bound to ensure a smooth flow of traffic, and it is mandatory to follow traffic rules, therefore, a person is bound to stop when being pulled over. However, there are specific incidents wherein commuters might be stopped without any fault on their part. Therefore, in the light of these circumstances, a commuter must be well aware of his rights in the case, he is being pulled over by the traffic police.

A traffic police officer can stop a vehicle at any time for any articulable reasonable skepticism like a violation of traffic rules, apprehension about your driving or for any other reason than he seems feasible to stop you. If you are pulled over by the police, maintain your calm, push your indicators, and analyzing the traffic, park your vehicle by the side of the road. It may happen that the police officer might have just stopped you to conduct regular checks or to inform you that your indicator or headlight is broken. It would help if you do not hurry out of the vehicle to give an explanation. It is advisable to stay in the car and roll down the window panes so that the policeman is assured that you do not have any illegal substances in your possession.

You should produce the documents that are demanded by the police officer, in case of failure to show such documents you are breaking the law. You may ask the officer the reason behind stopping you, but you should be polite in your mannerism. In case you feel that the police officer was mistaken, you can explain to him your point respectfully. If you committed a mistake, try explaining your situation courteously and ask for his pardon. When approached cordially, the officer might just let you go off with a warning. What should be avoided while in such a situation is talking arrogantly to the officer? It would help if you never suppressed the officer by dropping names of influential people. This situation might turn into an adverse outcome.

A traffic police officer can demand your driving license. He can also investigate the registration certificate, valid pollution certificate, insurance certificate, and fitness permit. Failure to produce these documents in the original can result in a fine or even arrest and court proceedings. However, it is your choice whether or not to hand over the documents to the police. The Motor Vehicles Act clearly mentions that the driver, when demanded his license by an officer, in any public space, shall produce the license.[1] Therefore, it can be understood that the requirement is to produce the documents and not hand them over to the police. It is also essential to know that an officer is required to have an e-challan or challan book in order to penalize you. In the absence of the same, he is not authorized to penalize you.[2]

Since the traffic officer is the absolute authority on the road, you need to follow the instructions that are issued by him. For certain offenses where appearance in court is mandatory, the officer is also allowed to impound a commuter’s driving license and other documents.[3] When you submit these documents, make sure that you get the acknowledgment receipt from the officer. This acknowledgment receipt will help the commuter to drive until his documents are returned or till the date specified on the receipt.[4]The the officer may also seize your vehicle if you are driving without license, certificates or valid permit, jumping a red light or speeding over the prescribed limit.[5]However, the vehicle cannot be towed as long as you are sitting in it. It can be towed only when you vacate it. Moreover, the traffic police cannot take away your car keys or force you out of the vehicle. Keys can be taken away only in cases of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving without license or certificates, and driving while being a minor.[6]

In case the police officer is of the rank of sub-inspector or above, then the commuter can settle the fault by giving the penalty then and there. In case you are unable to pay the fine, the officer is authorized to confiscate your documents, and you will be issued a court notice. It is necessary to appear before the court within the deadline; otherwise, an arrest warrant might be issued against you.[7] One must check that the challan issued mentions the offense committed, the commuter’s detail, the issuing officer’s detail, the documents that have been seized, and the name of the court in which the trial shall be held.[8]The traffic police can arrest a commuter without a warrant, in a case where the suspects dangerous driving or gross violations of traffic rules. However, if detained, the commuter must be produced before the magistrate for the trial, within 24 hours.[9]

It is important to remember that one should follow the instructions of the traffic police, but you should never succumb to the illegal demands made by them. Never try to bribe the officer since it’s ethically wrong and also punishable by law. It is necessary that you take note of the name and the buckle number mentioned on the plate of the officer’s shirt. In case he does not have one, you should demand his identity card. If the officer denies revealing his identity, you should not give him the documents. You can also file a complaint with the traffic police about the incident with a specific mention of the police officer who harassed you. Filing the complaint through a registered post is more desirable.

With the ongoing urbanization and the rising pressure of motor vehicles on the street, regulating traffic is an arduous task. While maintaining a close watch on the traffic, the traffic policemen may be mistaken sometimes. There are not only a lot of misconstructions about the rights of police officers but also plenty of misapprehensions about the rights of commuters on the road. Since an informed person is a better decision-maker, commuters must be well aware of not only traffic rules and regulations but also of their rights on the road.


[1]Motor Vehicles Act 1988, §.130.

[2]The Logical Indian, Know Your Rights If You Are Stopped By A Traffic Cop, available at



[4]Chikirsha Mohanty, Stopped by Traffic Police? Know your Rights, January 06, 2020, available at https://lawrato.com/indian-kanoon/motor-accident-law/stopped-by-traffic-police-know-your-rights.  


[6]Supra at 3.




This article is written by Sakshi Sharma student of First Year, B.A L.L.B(Hons.) at The WB National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.

Also Read: Role Of Motive, Intention And Malice In Torts

Law Corner

Leave a Comment