When Stopped by Police
The Portsmouth Police Department is proud to have a very intensive traffic safety program in place. Each year, patrol officers make approximately 10,000 motor vehicle stops. This effort is made to help keep the motoring public safe. There are many different reasons why the police might stop you:
- You may have committed a traffic violation.
- Your vehicle might have some sort of defective safety equipment, such as a headlight out.
- The police may want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation.
- Your vehicle may match the description of one used in a crime.
- You may have witnessed a crime.
Regardless of the reason, the officer needs your full cooperation. If you are stopped by the police, you may feel confused, anxious, excited or angry. Remember, traffic stops are very stressful and very dangerous for the officers. Each year, officers are killed or seriously injured while making what some people call "routine" traffic stops. Here's what you should do when an officer stops you:
- New Hampshire law requires that motorists pull as far to the right as practical and come to a complete stop on the approach of any emergency vehicle with emergency lights and/or siren activated.
- DO NOT exit your vehicle unless asked to do so by the officer.
- DO keep your hands in plain view on the steering wheel, so the officer can see them. This is a standard safety measure for the officer - s/he doesn't know you. Please do not be insulted. If the stop occurs at night, please turn on your interior dome light.
- DO NOT make any sudden movements inside the vehicle, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat, or glove box areas.
- If your license, vehicle registration, or insurance information are not within reach, tell the officer where they are located before you attempt to retrieve them.
- Avoid becoming argumentative. Arguing will not change an officer's decision to issue a summons or a warning. If you disagree with receiving a summons, you can argue the case at the Portsmouth District Court before a judge.
Questions / Complaints / Compliments
If you have a question about a procedure, or a complaint about the officer, contact the Department at 610-7406 and ask to speak to the On Duty Shift Commander. If you want to send a letter of compliment because an officer was particularly helpful or professional, you can send a letter to the Deputy Chief of Police's attention.
If you receive a traffic summons and the top states that you do NOT have to come to court, and you have further questions regarding how to answer the summons after reading the back of the pink copy, you can contact the New Hampshire Department of Safety at (603) 271-3101.
If you received a "Must Appear" traffic summons and have further questions regarding how to answer the summons after reading the back of the pink copy, or if you need to request a new court date, you can contact the Portsmouth District Court Clerk's Office at (603) 431-2192.
- Be sure that you and all your passengers always use seat belts. They do save lives.
- DO NOT drink and drive. The Portsmouth Police aggressively seek out drunk drivers to keep our roads safe. If you drink, use a designated driver. Please be sensible.
- Observe and obey all posted speed limits. Fine amounts are expensive and insurance surcharges may result.
- Drive defensively and with courtesy for your fellow motorists.
And remember that you have specific duties when you approach a highway emergency. When you approach an incident involving a fire, collision, disaster or other emergency resulting in partial or complete blockage of a highway, or a location where a police officer has made a traffic stop, you should:
- Reduce your speed
- Obey any directions given to you by any authorized person directing traffic
- Try to safely get your vehicle out of any lane that is blocked due to the incident
- Give a wide berth - without endangering oncoming traffic - to public safety personnel and any persons in the roadway.