Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What should I do if I am stopped by police?
A. Southwest Regional Police Officers stop motor vehicles for a variety of reasons:
- Traffic violation (speeding, running a red light, expired license plate tags, etc.)
- Occupants suspected of involvement in a crime (assault, theft, homicide, etc.)
- Vehicle suspected of being used to commit a crime (drive-by shooting, arson, kidnapping, etc.)
- Vehicle safety (broken taillight, cracked windshield, flat tire, etc.)
- Vehicle occupant witnessed a crime (robbery, shooting, burglary, etc.)
- Vehicle occupant in need of help
What you should do:
- Red & blue lights and/or a siren mean pull over to the right side of the roadway where it is safe and where you will not block traffic.
- If it is dark, the officer will use a bright spotlight or flashlight to illuminate you and your car.
- Upon request, drivers are required to show their license, registration, and proof of insurance to an officer.
- Depending on the circumstances, officers may request identification from passengers as well.
- Remain in your vehicle, keep your hands where the officer can see them and follow his or her instructions.
- Avoid sudden movements, and do not reach for your license or other items until the officer requests them.
- It is reasonable and legal for an officer to require that you and your passengers get out of the vehicle, but do not get out unless he or she asks you.
- Ask any passengers in your car to remain calm and comply with the officer’s instructions.
- You may ask questions and provide an explanation of your actions, but arguing with the officer should be avoided.
Unmarked police car?
SWRPD utilizes unmarked police units for a variety of reasons. It is legal for SWRPD to conduct traffic stops using unmarked police units. If you are stopped by an unmarked vehicle and are not sure it is a legitimate police officer, please do the following:
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- Slow down and drive to a well populated, well lit area, such as a convenience store, shopping center, service station or public building.
- Do not exit your vehicle – lower your window slightly and look for the officer’s uniform and identifying symbols. SWRPD does not conduct routine traffic stops unless the officer is in full uniform, consisting of a 7-point badge which says “Southwest Regional Police Dept.” on the badge, our regional police patch on both soulders, gray uniform shirt and dark blue trousers. Look for these identifying symbols.
- Once you are satisfied the officer is legitimate, cooperate with his or her instructions.
Q. What should I do if I receive a traffic warning?
A. A warning generally does not involve a fine or penalty. Warnings are to gain voluntary compliance with the traffic laws of the state. Types of warnings consist of a verbal warning (no paperwork given to you for the violation), and a written warning, which is generally issued on an official Police Warning card. SWRPD officers can issue either type of warning for violations such as speeding, failure to stop at stop signs, traffic lights, failure to use turn signals and careless driving to name a few. Other violations, including no driver’s license, registration or insurance cards present at the time of stop, broken equipment on your vehicle, expired inspection, license or registration, may require at the officers request that you correct the problem or show valid proof of correction or documentation within a certain amount of time, usually 5 days. Check the warning card carefully and ask the officer if there is anything that needs to be corrected and do the following:
- If you are required to correct an equipment violation on your vehicle, you may fix problem at a certified inspection/service station and have a certified inspection mechanic complete the back of the card. You can then simply mail the card to SWRPD. If you correct the violations yourself or by other means, you may also drive the vehicle to the SWRPD station and have an officer personally inspect the vehicle.
- If you are required to show proof of proper documantation (drivers,license, insurance, etc.), you must do so in person at the SWRPD station. Bring the warning card and documentation with you.
Q. What should I do if I am issued a citation?
A. There are two types of citations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A citation is used by an officer when a summary offense is committed, the lowest level of offense in the Commonwealth. Citations can be issued to a person directly by an officer hand-to-hand, or mailed to you. The first is called a Traffic Citation, which is issued by an officer to a person for violating any summary level traffic laws of the Commonwealth. The second is called a Non-Traffic Citation, which is issued by an officer to a person for violating various summary level offenses such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, underage drinking, criminal mischief, etc. Although a summary level offense is the lowest level offense, it can carry with it serious consequences, up to a $300.00 per offense and up to 90 days in prison and loss of drivers privileges for non-traffic violations, and up to thousands of dollars in fines and loss of driving privileges for traffic violations. If you receive a citation for an alleged summary violation, you must do the following:
- Upon issuance of the citation(s), you have 10 days in which to respond to the citation. It is your responsibility to respond to the citation.
- The back of the citation gives detailed instructions on how to respond. You can respond in one of two ways:
Note: Failure to repond to a citation may result in loss of driving privileges and a warrant for your arrest being issued.
Q. What should I do if I am involved in a traffic accident?
A. Pennsylvania law says you must stop—whether the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone’s property. If you drive away, you can be charged with “hit and run” even if the accident was not your fault. You must also exchange information with the other driver—your name and driver’s license number, the vehicle identification number of the car you are driving, the name and address of the car’s owner, the name and address of your insurance company and your insurance policy
Hit-and-run penalties are severe. Depending on the damage or injuries, you may be fined, sent to jail or both. You also could lose your driver’s license. If you hit a parked car or other property, try to find the owner or driver. If you cannot, the law says you may drive away only after you leave behind, in a conspicuous place, your name, address and an explanation of the accident, and the name and address of your car’s owner (if other than yourself). You also must notify the local police department either by telephone or in person as soon as possible.
An officer who comes to the scene of the accident will conduct an investigation. An official Accident Report will be completed within 14 days of the accident. You may obtain a copy of the report or direct your insurance company to obtain a copy of the report following it’s completion.
Copies of the report are $15.00 each.
Q. What should I do if I am receiving harassing phone calls?
A. Harassing phone calls can be one of the most stressful and frightening invasions of privacy a person experiences. And unwanted phone calls, while a minor problem when compared with threatening calls, can still be a major inconvenience.
When someone calls and uses obscene or threatening language, or even heavy breathing or silence to intimidate you, you are receiving a harassing call. It is against the law.
For harassing calls, serious threats, if life or property are threatened, or if calls are obscene, you should call 911 and file a report with the SWRPD. Provide as much information as you can. Indicate the gender of the caller and describe the caller’s voice. Note the time and date of the call(s). What did the caller say? How old did he/she sound? Did the caller seem intoxicated? Did he/she have an accent or speech impediment? Was there any background noise? Was a phone number/name displayed on the Caller ID device?
With cell phones fast becoming the primary way of communicating, harassing phone calls can be especially distressing and disruptive. You should be aware of the steps you need to take if you receive harassing calls or text messages.
First, you should file a report with the SWRPD. It is important that you file the report as a first step because most cell phone carriers will not reveal customer information, including a harasser’s identity, without police investigation.
Unlike traditional “land-line” phones, you are not able to block incoming callers to your cell phone. However, you should record the date, time, and description of each call, and save any messages you receive. This information is essential evidence in helping the police and the cell phone carrier investigate the harassment. It is a good idea to play the any messages into a tape recorder.
In addition to filing the police report, it is important to document the harassment. If you think the messages will be deleted before the investigation is complete, you may want to photograph the text messages.
Parents should be aware of the increase in electronic bullying through text messages. One option is to contact the carrier and ask that the text message function be disabled. Disabling this feature will block all messages though (it is not usually possible to block a single phone number). As cell phones are often an integral part of a child’s social life, you may not want to completely take away this option.
Experts suggest that turning off the text messaging function for a few days may be enough to discourage the harasser. Policies on blocking text messages vary by individual carrier, and your carrier may offer other options.
Often people use shorthand for text messages. If you are unsure of what the shorthand means, you can use the translator found at http://www.teenangels.org .
Q. People are trespassing on my property, what can I do?
A. Private property owners have the right to exclude persons from trespassing on their respective property. Criminal trespassing, such as breaking into a structure, simple trespassing with intent to terrorize and defiant trespass are against PA law. Asking someone to leave your property and who refuses to leave, ignoring a fencing or enclosure used to keep out unwanted persons or notice of trespass signs placed in a conspicous area are all examples of defiant trespass. SWRPD advises that if you encounter a trespasser, and he poses no immediate threat to persons or property, to call 911 and have a SWRPD officer respond and not challenge the actor(s). If a vehicle is on the property, try to get the registration plate and give the tag number to the 911 dispatcher when you report the incident.
You may also grant SWRPD permission to conduct patrols on your property by submitting a letter of agency form, whereby giving permission to SWRPD to enforce all laws of the Commonwealth on your proprerty.
Q. My vehicle was towed by SWRPD. How do I get it back?
A. Police may tow vehicles for a variety of reasons. If your vehicle is within the scope of an investigation, the vehicle may be impounded and held by police as evidence until the investigation is complete. Police also tow vehicles that are abandoned, causing a traffic hazard, have been operated while unregistered or in instances where the driver has been arrested.
Contact SWRPD and ask if your vehicle is to be released. If it is, contact the towing company involved in the incident. The company involved depends on the location of the incident within the region. You will be responsible for payment of all towing and impound fees associated with the incident. Fees are set by each individual towing company and vary accordingly. SWRPD does not set or manage fees associated with towing.