What To Do If You Are Stopped by a Deputy Sheriff

by Shawn Brownell, deputy

copsNo one wants to be pulled over, and being stopped by a deputy sheriff can be uncomfortable. Deputies share your feelings. More than half of all California peace officers killed in the line of duty were conducting pedestrian or traffic stops. Our biggest concern is safety, yours and ours. The information herein will help everyone get home safely.


Public safety is the primary reason for any stop, for example:

Did you commit a traffic violation? Run a red light, have expired registration tags. Do you match the description of someone wanted for a crime? assault, theft, homicide. Was your vehicle or one like it used to commit a crime? Drive-by shooting, arson, kidnaping. Is your vehicle safe? broken taillight, cracked windshield. Did you witness a crime? robbery, shooting, burglary. Do you need help?


Red lights and/or a siren means pull over to the right where it is safe and where you will not block traffic. If it is dark, the deputy will use a bright spotlight or flashlight to illuminate you or your car. California law requires all drivers to show their license, registration and insurance card to a peace officer upon request. The United States Supreme Court states it is reasonable and legal for a deputy to ask you and your passengers to exit the car. According to State law, if you refuse to sign a citation, you may be arrested.


  • Remain in your vehicle and follow the deputy’s instructions.
  • Keep your hands where the deputy can see them.
  • Avoid any sudden movements, and do not reach for your license or other items until the deputy requests them.
  • Ask any passengers in your car to remain calm and comply with the deputy’s instructions.
  • Sign the citation if you receive one (this does not mean you are guilty; it is just your promise to appear in court at a later time).


Deputies are trained to be courteous and professional when they contact you. When it is safe or practical to do so, the deputy will provide you with his/her name upon request.

Deputies who are not in uniform will also present proper identification upon request. Within a reasonable amount of time, the deputy will explain why you were stopped. If you are disabled or ill, the deputy will assist you.


The Watch Commander at any Sheriff’s Station or facility is available to answer your questions regarding procedures, citations, or traffic stops. You can contact us in person or by mail, and you do not have to use a special form. The Watch Commander will complete a Service Comment Report to document your complaint or commendation. Watch Commanders may discuss a deputy’s conduct, but cannot adjudicate citations. Only a Judge has that authority. If you choose to report your concerns by phone, you may contact the station Watch Commanders individually or you may dial 1-800-698-TALK.

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