Do Cops Have To Tell You Why They Pulled You Over? The Answer May Surprise You

Emma Saletta - Author

Apr. 30 2023, Published 1:42 p.m. ET

A police car on a street near a college campus in Michigan.
Source: Getty Images

Many drivers have likely had experience in being pulled over by the police for reasons such as speeding, running red lights and stop signs, or driving too slow. Some cops may tell the driver why they're being pulled over.

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The cops have been in the headlines more often because of situations like unfair treatment. However, does that mean cops must tell you why they pulled you over?

Read on for details.

Why cops don't have to tell you why they pull you over.

Yes, it's true — cops have the option not to tell people why they're being pulled over. Although they do not have any obligation to tell a driver why they're being pulled over, they must have a reason that will make the stop justified.

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Although police do not have to tell you why they are stopping you before asking for identification in a traffic stop, it's mostly standard practice in many areas to explain why.

If taken to court, the police officer must provide their reason. If one feels they are being stopped unlawfully, it is within their rights to capture video of the encounter, which could be used as evidence.

Some cops worldwide do have to tell you why they pulled you over.

police car photo

Protocols regarding the law are always different depending on where someone travels, especially if it's outside the United States. In fact, German police officers must do the exact opposite of what is done in America.

According to Department of the Army civilian Tony Muñoz, he was pulled over across the border in Germany by an unmarked car flashing signs that read "Polizei".

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"They asked me a few general questions, such as where I live, where I had traveled to, how long I stayed in the Netherlands, and if the car was mine or rented," said Muñoz.

When stopped by police officers in Germany, they must identify themselves and state the reason for the traffic stop.

"Keep the proper documents with you in your car, and as long as you follow the proper rules of the road, there's really nothing to be worried about," stated Sgt. Joseph Onessimo, a traffic officer with the Directorate of Emergency Services.

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Before traveling abroad, if you plan to drive or be a passenger in a vehicle, it may be helpful to research your rights with regards to being pulled over, which can vary from country to country.

When cops do pull you over, there is a protocol.

Back in the US, when it comes to an investigative stop, the officer can only keep the driver stopped for as long as necessary to identify the driver, confirm or dispel the suspicion, and issue any tickets or, if it comes to it, make an arrest.

However, courts have allowed the police to make traffic stops if the officer has “a reasonable, articulable suspicion” based on facts that the driver is, was, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity, or has committed minor traffic violations.

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