Traffic Cops Reveal How They Decide Who Gets a Ticket Or A Warning

But you might wonder sometimes how they do it. It seems like there is no rhyme or reason to who gets a traffic ticket, for example.

Well, suvdrummer is out to solve that mystery:

Traffic Cops of Reddit, how do you decide who gets a warning and who gets a ticket?

Here are some anecdotal secrets.

The Old Daughter Trick

Four years ago, my two daughters in the backseat. Oldest daughter is three. Sirens behind me. I pull over.

Daughter: Why did you stop? Me: The police pulled me over. Daughter: Why? Me: Because they have laws for driving on the road, and I broke one. (Silence until the officer approaches. I roll down my window.) Daughter (the dam breaks, tears flow like a waterfall): DONT TAKE DADDY TO JAIL! I LOVE HIM!

I got a warning.


I only pull over people for pretty unreasonable crap, so it's mostly a ticket.

It's not really contingent on my treatment. Being super charming is not a free pass. Why should it be?

Teenagers notwithstanding. They usually can't fake things very well. If they are nice, I take it was genuinely nice and I take that into consideration.

Don't Sass Me

I once got pulled over for having an "obstructed view". As the officer was telling me why I got pulled over I said, "Obstructed view? What do you mean? I saw you didn't I?"

Yeah, that was a ticket. First one.

Simple Solution

Cop here:

Most people get warnings.

Being an -sshole is a guaranteed way to turn that warning into a ticket.


Not a cop, but my boyfriend's family member is and my boyfriend was going through the process of becoming a cop so he went for a lot of ride alongs and stuff. One cop told him that he always gives the pretty girls tickets because they usually get a free pass and he always let's regular ones go because they usually don't get special treatment.


99.9% of the time with me you're getting a warning. I could care less of your attitude, I just don't take that stuff personally. This applies to petty traffic offenses.

I tend to look for misdemeanor traffic (I.e. suspended/revoked license or DUI). These result in a zero discretion arrest.

Reverse Psychology

I was going 90 in a 40 (I thought it was a 70) when I got pulled over by an unmarked cop. I had just had some ice cream an hour or so earlier and I'm lactose intolerant. The most foul smells you can imagine . The cop came to my window and as I was rolling them down I let one rip and said "I'm sorry officer, I just really need to get to a bathroom."

I saw the stench hit his face and he backed away and said "I'm going to let you off with a warning, but the speed limit is 40 so you need to slow down. There's a gas station about 6 miles up on the left, they should have a restroom."

Nice Car, Now Pay

It's all on the person pulling you overs discretion since there isn't a golden set of rules to abide by.

Then there's the a**hole way, which is just tailing the car until they do something illegal.

This happened to me when I drove my bosses car, a Lexus LC500, a very very nice sports car. I was on the left most lane doing 70-75 mph, following traffic, keeping a 5 second distance between the car in front of me.

And I get flagged and pulled over. The cop on motorcycle was very obvious about tailing me too, told me straight up he saw me pull out of my work place, said he never seen a car like that and wanted to see what car I was driving so he followed me all the way up the highway.

Hands Up

I am not a cop, but my cousin was for like 20 years. He told me anything you can do to make the officer feel safer and not on edge goes a long way.

Getting pulled over on the interstate? Exit on to the service road or pull into a parking lot. Do not start digging for license and insurance until requested. Do you have a firearm in the car that may become visible? Explain that before you do anything that may make it visible, and ask how the officer would like to proceed.

A Heart

This will likely get lost, but I figured I'd share this (Not a cop but treated one well and got a warning)

Had a bad day, long story short best friends mom died and I was freaking out (I was close to her too). I found out and was speeding home to get to him. I blasted STRAIGHT through a stop sign. I literally saw the cop as I blew the sign, immediately knew I'd be pulled over.

Before he could even get into drive I was at the side of the road, parked, hands on the wheel with windows rolled down. I didn't make any excuses but my voice was shaky and distressed. He asked what was wrong, I briefly explained, and he just said to drive safe.

Will never forget that, but even if I didn't explain anything to him I like to think my actions helped my situation a bit


My uncles and grandparents were all cops, im prior military, here's how you get out of a ticket.

  1. Be polite
  2. Hands on steering wheel
  3. Be a retired vet with cops in your family

Hold The Tongue

When I was a dispatcher the cops would always say "I wasn't going to give him a ticket, but he talked himself into one.". In other words keep your mouth shut unless the cop asks a question and, as much as I wish I didn't have to say this but be respectful!!

State V. Local

I work within a department and have had plenty of angry people come ask "HOW COME *_* DIDN'T GET A TICKET?!" And the answer is usually just "I'm sorry sir/mam but it's at the officers own personal discretion as to whether they want to issue a ticket at the scene of a accident." I actually recently had to pull ticket stats and several officers had less than 100 tickets for the whole year. So that whole "hurrdurr they have a quota" is bullsh-t. At least here.

Most of the guys/gals here don't go crazy just sitting and calling traffic all day to dole out tickets. And most of the time, even if they do issue a ticket, they will tell the subject that if they go to traffic court, the officer willingly will not show, and it will get thrown out.

From personal experience, state police LOVE to stop and write tickets for anything from 5mph over to something like a license plate light being out. Our locals aren't that bad.

No Rhyme Or Reason

My mood and how they act in our conversation. If it's a minor thing and they're polite and it sounds like it genuinely was an accidental thing i might let them off with a warning.

But i always get ready to write the ticket when i stop someone, giving them a warning instead is a somewhat rare for me to do.

Driving Record

State Trooper here. It really depends on what infraction you broke, your driving record, and how you acted upon first contact.

If you arent wearing a seat belt or speeding more than 12-15 mph over the limit you're getting a ticket every time. We stop a lot of cars looking for something more than just writing a ticket. I have never wrote a ticket for an equipment violation.

Simply being nice and having somewhat decent of a driving record will get you far. Or just be an old lady, we never write old ladies tickets its bad juju.


No longer in the biz. But 99% of the time it was attitude and specifics to the amount over and location. 10 over on a main road at night, prolly a warning because I'm looking for DUIs etc. 10 over in a school zone = ticket. I personally much rather you be honest and say you "just went with the traffic flow" or "I didn't realize I was going quite that fast". Honesty works great. LPT: Don't. Argue. That's a pretty sure way to get a ticket. If a special enforcement event is happening, around a holiday etc, where the bosses are out you may get a ticket but if you're cool it may get "knocked down" to save you some money. Your results may vary.

Lay It Down

Actual Police Officer here. There is a lot of misinformation in this thread.

1) There are no ticket quotas. Police Officere don't get paid more for writing more tickets. Police Officers don't get punished for writing less/no tickets.

2) Some Police Officers are specifically assigned to the division of traffic safety or whatever their agency equivalent is. These Officers are specifically assigned to enforce traffic violations and document collision reports. They are highly unlikely to let you off with a warning. Motor Officers fall under this category as do most state troopers/highway patrol.

3) Most Officers are assigned to patrol and respond to 9-1-1 calls. These Officers are more likely to let you off with a warning because they have better things to do with their time (like eat or finish their reports) or are en route to a call.

4) Attitude matters. I have written plenty of young pretty girls tickets because they acted entitled to a warning. I have let a guy go for running a red light because he was on his way to a job fair after struggling to find work for several months (he owned up to the violation and was apologetic).

You are inconveniencing me by not driving correctly. You are taking time out of my day dealing with real criminals because I need to remind you how to drive. If you act like getting pulled over is an inconvenience to YOU, if you yell at me, start complaining about your rights or how this is whatever racial profiling you want to imagine before a greeting can even leave my lips, you are getting a ticket.

Roll your tinted windows down, keep your hands on the wheel, wait for instructions to get paperwork, own up to your mistake, apologize, and act like an actual human being: you'll be on your way and I'll be on mine.

Being Aware

Be somewhat pleasant.

Understand that there is a 95% chance I didn't stop you "for no reason".

Don't have actually put anyone's life in jeopardy in my presence(including mine) e.g. cruising through and crowded crosswalk/driving on the wrong side of the road

Have your kid properly buckled and strapped in (zero tolerance from me on this one). I've seen a couple dead kids

Don't try and be "slick". I've seen and heard it all, you're only going to dig yourself deeper into a hole.

If you're speeding. Don't be going double the speed limit. Everything else I take on a case by case basis (traffic/ weather/ quality of your automobile)

I have a million stories.

Blue Lights

99% of the time, it's decided by the time I hit the blue lights. A violation either is or isn't worth a ticket. Most of the time I draw the line at truly unsafe and purposeful behavior, like driving 40+ in a 20 mph school zone during bus drop off/pickup times.

The other 1% of the time I might change my mind if someone was going to get a warning but insists on arguing about the violation. The place to argue is court, and if you want to argue it I'll give you the chance to do that in front of a judge, which requires a ticket.

Helpful Rhymes

I had a cop tell me "9 you're fine, 10 you're mine"

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