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How to Tell if the Police Officer Pulling You Over Is Legitimate

Police officer pulling over a vehicle.

For many New Yorkers, traffic tickets are an unfortunate reality. Generally, these car stops are conducted by an actual police officer, that is given the power under the law to pull over vehicles and issue such citations. But unfortunately for some citizens, this isn’t the case. 

Although not the norm, every year many drivers around the country report stories of individuals pulling them over who are not, in fact, police officers but rather impersonating them without the legal authority to do so. Pulling your vehicle over for someone who is impersonating a police officer can potentially end up being very dangerous. That’s why it is always a good idea to pay attention as to whether or not the police officer is legitimate. Fortunately, there are things to look for when trying to make such a determination. 

What to Look for When Determining Legitimacy

1. Vehicle

The first thing to look for when you are being pulled over on the road is the type of vehicle that has its lights and sirens on. Although the New York Police Department doesn’t just use one specific make or model, popular vehicles include the:

  • Chevy Impala
  • Dodge Charger
  • Ford Crown Victoria
  • Ford Escape

When taking notice of the vehicle, also look at its condition. Police vehicles are well cared for and maintained, so if the one following you looks or sounds old or problematic, it could signal that something is not right.

2. Badge or ID

Another thing to look at is the officer’s badge or ID. You always have the right to request to see the police officer’s ID. You have every right to ask the officer without feeling as though you are being annoying or questioning their authority. You can simply explain your concerns regarding why you are making such a request. 

Official police officer badges are made of metal and sit on a leather backing. It will also include some holographic details much the same as a driver’s license.

3. Dispatcher Confirmation

Although there are cases in which plain-clothes police officers in unmarked vehicles may pull someone over, this is not common. If the police officer is not dressed in uniform, has a worn looking vehicle, doesn’t have a normal-looking badge, or something simply doesn’t feel right, it is always a good idea to call 9-1-1 in order to ask if the officer is legitimate. Since police are required to report when they are conducting a traffic stop, the dispatcher will be able to verify with the local department that it is legitimate. 

Also, remember that you have the right to drive to a well-lit area with your flashers on if it is dark outside. If they verify his or her legitimacy, you can let the dispatcher know that you do not want to stop in the dark but that you are complying. However, if the dispatcher has no knowledge of any legitimate traffic stop, do not pull over, but let them know exactly where you are. Also, be sure to lock your doors and windows. 

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. What could happen to you if you allow an imposter to pull you over can be far worse than any moving violation that you could be issued. However, if the police officer is legitimate and you are issued a citation, you also have the right to fight against it in order to reduce or eliminate possible consequences. 

AutoTrafficTickets.com Helps Those in New York Who Wish to Challenge Driving Ticket

The consequences of receiving a driving ticket can impact a lot of things in a negative manner, but speaking with a traffic ticket attorney can provide you with invaluable information.  


If you have been issued a moving violation and wish to challenge the existence of the ticket, AutoTrafficTickets.com can help. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Traffic Tickets