FAQ - Traffic Stops

Date of Record: 2008-05-08

What Happens When a Police Officer Stops Your Vehicle?


Issuing CitationWhy did you stop me?

The first question an officer usually hears.

The California Vehicle Code governing driving privileges consists of over 2200 violations. It is not uncommon for a driver to be in violation of a law without knowing it.


Moving Violations are the most common reasons a vehicle is stopped. Some examples include:
  • speeding
  • failure to stop at a red light or a stop sign
  • violation of a no turn sign
  • failure to use a turn signal
  • not wearing a seat belt or not having a child properly restrained 
Registration or Equipment Violations are other reasons a vehicle may be stopped by an officer.


Criminal Investigations often involve searching for a "wanted" vehicle. In today's mobile society, offenders often use cars or trucks to facilitate their activities. Your vehicle may be similar to the description of a suspect's vehicle from a recent crime.


Safety Concerns are other reasons an officer might stop your vehicle. For instance, your trunk may be open, something may be hanging from under your vehicle, or you may have left an item on your roof.


Keeping the Lines of Communication Open


-Steps to follow if you are stopped- 

  • Stop your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible.  
  • Stay in your vehicle.
  • Relax and remain in your vehicle. If you leave the vehicle, you subject yourself and the officer to the dangers of traffic.
  • Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel.
  • Wait for the officer to request your license, registration, and proof of insurance.

Police officers are trained to ask for identification first, and provide an explanation second.

First, provide the proper documentation. Then give the officer a chance to explain the reason you were stopped. Providing your documentation will simplify and speed the process. Remember, the officer is in uniform with a name tag displayed. You have the advantage of knowing with whom you are dealing. Extend the courtesy by providing the requested identification without argument.


If you do not agree with the citation or the officer's demeanor, do not argue at the scene.

All citizens have the right to question their citation before a judge. The Coronado Police Department has an internal affairs system in place to investigate citizen complaints. If you have a comment or complaint concerning a Coronado Police Officer, please call (619) 522-7350 and ask to speak to the on- duty Watch Commander.


Did You Know?


-Some rules of the road-

  •  Carry Proper Identification. When driving a motor vehicle, you must have in your possession: 
    - your valid driver's license 
    - proof of vehicle registration
    - proof of current insurance for the vehicle

If you are stopped and you do not have all of these items with you, a citation may be issued. 

  • It is the driver's (not the owner's) responsibility to be sure that the vehicle being driven is insured and that the proper documents are in the vehicle.
  • It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the person driving the vehicle possesses a valid driver's license.
Monitor Occupants
As the driver, you are responsible for the conduct of all the occupants of the vehicle. This covers such things as passengers throwing trash out a window, hanging their arms or legs out a window or acting in a disorderly manner. (This also includes allowing controlled substances or open containers of alcoholic beverages to be brought into your vehicle.)

As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts, and that children are properly secured. Therefore, if a police officer stops your vehicle, do not remove your seatbelt.


Signal Your Intentions.

You must signal your intent to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet before performing the action.


Why do we do what we do?


-Common questions about police procedures and their answers-


"Why was the officer so cautious when approaching my car"?


Police officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic and, therefore, reduce the likelihood they will be injured. The officer's safety is also a concern. When stopping a vehicle, officers do not know the intent of the driver. Therefore, police officers are trained in officer safety procedures to minimize risks while making traffic stops.


"If it's only a minor offense, why did two or three officers show up"?


Officers in the vicinity frequently checking on one another is a common law enforcement practice.