When I was in Memphis one of the criminal court judges said, “if people would just follow the basic traffic laws, crime in this town would drop by 85 percent.” At the time it seemed like a ridiculous thing to say. There would be no change in the amount of crimes being committed (with the exception of the traffic laws). What he meant was that arrests and petty prosecutions would drop dramatically.

He was right. In my experience in criminal law, almost all of my client’s arrest warrants start with a traffic stop. The warrants allege that they were speeding, had lights out, didn’t use a blinker, didn’t have their wipers working, etc. Once stopped, the encounter will usually end with a search of the vehicle.

Follow these simple tips and your chances of going to jail will drop:

  • Make sure all your lights are working.

This includes brake lights, headlights, blinkers, license plate light. Once you check that all the lights work, try using them…for example, use the blinker when turning (this helps from getting pulled over, and it is a common courtesy).

  • Don’t speed.

It amazes me that people with outstanding warrants or no driver’s license drive way over the speed limit. It is so dumb I can’t really say anything more about it.

  • Don’t put illegal tint on your vehicle.

I know it is really cool to have the super dark tint on your windows, but just know that this is a great reason for the police to stop you. It’s funny to hear people complain about how unfair the police are for stopping them for illegal tint, but that was a risk they are taking. Be your own best advocate and stop giving the police reasons to pull you over!

  • Maker sure you registration is up to date.

This is a very common problem. Someone will get pulled over for expired tags and claim the police are profiling. No, you’re waving a pull me over flag.

  • Put your phone down while driving.

I know it’s hard to wait until you are stopped to check Facebook or text messages, but you need to. Looking at your phone while driving lights up your face and makes it obvious you are breaking the law. It’s also polite to not endanger everyone around you. Don’t be a jerk, put your phone down.

  • Don’t smoke weed in your car.

Actually, don’t ever carry weed in your car. Vacuum your car, wipe down the interior, get every speck of leaf out of your car and never bring it back in. If the police smell the odor of marijuana in your car, they can search the entire vehicle and the occupants. Why make it easier for them? I see it all the time, the officer smells the odor of marijuana, this leads to a search of the trunk, and there they find all kinds of goodies; cocaine, pills, guns, and all other types of contraband. I have cases where the police will pull the floor mats and scrub them with a toothbrush until they find specks of marijuana leaves. Not even enough to register a weight on a digital scale, now the client is facing 11 months and 29 days in jail or on probation (we have never had a single client get probation, jail time, or a conviction on their record under these circumstances). If this is the third time the client was caught with drugs, they could be facing a felony. Don’t do it.

Following these tips will not guarantee that you don’t go to jail, but they will help your chances of avoiding a police encounter. And in reality, avoiding a police encounter means avoiding jail.