Traffic Stops - What to do if you get pulled over

If you see lights and sirens behind you

  • Immediately pull over to the nearest right-hand edge or curb of the roadway.
  • Pull your car over as close as possible to the curb of the roadway and stay clear of any intersections.
  • Stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has either passed or wait for the officer to approach your car.

If you are being pulled over and an officer is approaching your car

  • Stay in your vehicle and keep your hands visible.
  • If it is dark outside - turn on your interior vehicle light.
  • Follow the directions of the police officer.
  • Washington law requires drivers to show their license, registration and proof of insurance upon request from a police officer.
  • Be honest with the police and ask for an explanation if something is unclear.
  • Accepting a citation is not an admission of guilt and you will have the opportunity to contest the citation in court after the fact.

Why are you being stopped?

Police officers may stop a motorists for these reasons:

  • Traffic violations
  • Probable cause to make an arrest
  • Reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based on personal observations and information from other police officers, the police radio or a witness.
  • Outstanding warrants.
  • A police officer can also stop for minor infractions such as darkly tinted windows, inoperative equipment or failing to signal before a turn.

"Terry Stops" of Vehicles

A "Terry Stop" of vehicles are when an officer may stop vehicles for questions, if the officer reasonably suspects that the driver in the vehicle has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. The officer is not required to have probable cause to arrest the individual at the time of contact, but may have reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity. Evidence obtained through a Terry Stop of a vehicle is acceptable as long as it was the result of a reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred.


Sue Rahr, Interim Chief of Police
Address: 610 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104-1900
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 625-5011
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The Seattle Police Department (SPD) prevents crime, enforces laws, and supports quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services. SPD operates within a framework that divides the city into five geographical areas called "precincts".