General Question

stemnyjones's avatar

Is it entrapment if a cop rides your a** while you're going the speed limit?

Asked by stemnyjones (3969points) December 18th, 2011

I just moved to a very rural area. I have to pass through another small town to get to my house, where the speed limit is very low (35mph for the most part) and the cops are known for being ticket-crazy.

The main road is a 4 lane, two lanes on either side. The other day I was going the speed limit (39 in the 35, actually) in the right-most lane. Someone else was going the speed limit in the lane beside me, slightly behind me but not leaving enough room for someone to pass. I didn’t notice this until a cop began riding my tail, without lights on or anything. He was too close for me to feel comfortable braking, but in order to let him pass I would have had to speed up above the limit.

Say I had sped up past the speed limit and he had pulled me over for speeding. Would this have been considered entrapment, since he was riding me so close and presumably wanting to pass?

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35 Answers

robmandu's avatar

Why not slow down, let the guy in the left lane pass you, and then the cop could pass after?

So, no, it’s not entrapment… you definitely have legal options that are obvious and available.

stemnyjones's avatar

As I said, the cop was RIGHT on my ass. I was afraid to brake for fear that he would run into me.

robmandu's avatar

Puh-leeze. Who said hit the brakes? Merely coasting to slow down is sufficient.

Even lightly touching the brakes just to activate your tail lights initially and then braking more forcefully later would work, too.

You’re stretching the conditions to meet your improbable solution.

ETpro's avatar

Certainly not entrapment, but also not nice, and not a good sign. Often it means they are suspicious of you for some reason, like you might he DWB, DWH or DWG. You don’t have any politically sensitive bumper stickers or plaques on your car, do you?

jaytkay's avatar

Not entrapment. If a dangerous driver is behind you, you stop and let them pass.

whitetigress's avatar

If the car from behind hits you, it’s always their fault. Even if they’re tail gaiting and you suddenly stop. It’s why the tail gaiting isn’t legal to begin with. I know how you feel. But more than likely you under acted in the situation because you might have gotten nervous. You admitted yourself you were over the legal speed limit. He could cite that he was clocking your speed, I would just go the speed limit to avoid any of this in the first place. Feel free to call YOUR local police station as well, ask them about this situation and mention you were unsure what to do. YOUR TAX MONEY! YOUR POLICE! Don’t let them intimidate you.

majorrich's avatar

My favorite trick when anyone is really riding my bumper is to wash my windshield. Excess washer fluid almost always ends up on theirs, making them need to turn on their wipers. Sometimes brighter beings take the hint and back off. Occasionally there is that stubborn piece of dirt that needs a second washing. Meanwhile backing off on the gas a bit to about 27 makes them go on around wipers going and disgruntled. It makes me laugh. Ymmv

marinelife's avatar

No, you could have pulled over and let him by.

jaytkay's avatar

Excess washer fluid almost always ends up on theirs


You need to adjust your squirters. Unbend a paper clip, stick it in the little nozzle, and point it where it belongs.


Sorry to intrude. As you were.

stemnyjones's avatar

@ETpro Nope. I am democratic, and the town is just moved into is predominantly republican and actually known as a KKK locale.. I don’t push my luck by sporting an Obama and/or Coexist sticker like I would like to.

JLeslie's avatar

Never brake when someone is tailgating. Never. If they make you uncomfortable, I don’t care if it is a cop or whoever, lift a little on the gas and slow slightly. They will most likely go around you since they want to go faster. If you are in the left lane of an expressway, you move over to the right lane as soon as you safely can, even then slowing slightly until you can move over is advisable.

The cop might have been running your tag, so he was staying right on top of you.

JLeslie's avatar

@robmandu Brake lights can cause the person behind you to brake hard, and accidents can happen. Sure you’re ok, because his braking caused the guy behind him to slam into him, or he swerved thinking he was going to hit you and went into a pole or another car. Either way it is bad driving. The tailgater sucks, and now you do too when you tap your brake.

gondwanalon's avatar

Cop or no cop, I never let a car tail-gait me. The cop was wrong to follow so close. The cop was breaking the law by tail-gating you. It is generally more unsafe to drive too close that it is to drive over the speed limit slightly. If I was in your situation, I would make a defensive maneuver such as change lanes if it could be done safely or signal to turn right or park and let the cop go by. Do not tolerate an unsafe driving situation.

robmandu's avatar

@JLeslie, while I understand the point you’re trying to make, I refuse to accept any responsibility for the negligent actions of a tailgater and the predictable consequences of his dangerous decisions.

So far, no one here has advocated making excessive braking or other radical maneuver to cause a crash. We’re talking about thoughtful defensive driving seeking the best outcome for all involved.

Sheesh. Some of you guys are paranoid.

JLeslie's avatar

@robmandu Ask someone who teaches driving school if they would ever recommend braking. And, it is not just the tailgater, it is the guy behind him or next to him. But, if you don’t give a damn because they are sucky drivers lots of people feel the same as you. I like safety on the road in general. If you are ever the guy next to the guy tailgating who panics and swerves, well, oops.

john65pennington's avatar

I agree that he may have been following too close, contingent on what you have told us. But, he may have had a reason for this. He may have been checking your license plate registration on his computer. Was there anything that may have aroused this officers suspicion of you or your car?

If not, I would say he was just following too close. Was this in a small country town? This may be your answer.

Anyway, next time this happens, tap your brake pedal gently, so any vehicle too close to your rearend will back off. This includes police cars. jp

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“I just moved to a very rural area.”

Expect more of the same until they get to know you.

CWOTUS's avatar

I also don’t like to hit the brakes when I have a tailgater, but I always coast to at least -5 MPH under the speed limit if I can’t change lanes. I also use the windshield washer thing all the time (even a properly aimed stream is going to flow over the top of your roof as your wipers operate), and in the worst cases I turn my parking lights on. To the unwary, it seems like brake lights, so they hit theirs as I continue to coast ahead of them. Sometimes that’s all the separation I need to find a good turnoff.

In addition, drive through every puddle that you possibly can.

roundsquare's avatar

Short answer: no.


The exact rules for entrapment will depend on what state you live in (since criminal law is almost entirely state law or lower) but the basic conditions are:

(1) The idea for committing the crime came from the government agents and not from the person accused of the crime.
(2) Government agents then persuaded or talked the person into committing the crime. Simply giving someone the opportunity to commit a crime is not the same as persuading them to commit that crime. (Side note: I’m not sure if “talking” is necessary or if some other sort of convicing is sufficient).
(3) The person was not ready and willing to commit the crime before interaction with the government agents.

These are fairly strict conditions. Unless the cop was trying to get get you to speed its not entrapment. Even if he/she was, it will be nigh impossible to prove unless you get statements from other cops who testify as such.

JLeslie's avatar

@john65pennington Gawd, I just got through lecturing not to tap the brakes, and then you, a cop, recommend it. I give up.

Paradox25's avatar

I had something similar happen to me. A cop was tailing me very closely during the wee hours of the morning while driving home from work. It was a four lane highway but it was an unmarked car, but I got tired of it when driving slow didn’t do the trick so I pulled over. Guess what? He pulled over too and told me I was weaving (I’m certain I wasn’t though I was tired) and checked my license quickly then he took off. It was strange since he didn’t even ask for proof of insurance or nothing like that. The speed limit was 40 and I was doing about 40 to 45.

Maybe he was bored. Unfortunately there was not much you could do except slow down but if you would had done that or pulled over you likely would have looked suspicious like I did.

AshlynM's avatar

To answer your question, no it’s not. There’s no reason I can think for him to be behind you like that, other than to check your plate number. Maybe he was checking to see if you had a current license tag.

If there would’ve been an accident, the cop would’ve been at fault for following too closely. And they should know the rules of the road, since they are law enforcement.

JLeslie's avatar

I can’t resist. Another reason not to tap brakes, because if the guy on your tail realizes you are doing it to get back at him or try to control him, then if he is still behind you when you really do need to brake, he might not take your brake lights seriously at first. I had not even thought of that one.


robmandu's avatar

@JLeslie, check your source, it recommends what I and others here have been recommending here all along:

The best thing to do is get the tailgater safely around you. Do this by slowing slightly below the normal flow of traffic speed. This allows him more room to pass, and your slower speed makes it easier for him to do so. This is what you WANT.

When professional law enforcement and your own sources are contradicting you, perhaps that might be a time to consider re-evaluating your position on the matter.

JLeslie's avatar

@robmandu Here is what my source said:

Finally, here’s what NOT to do. Don’t hit the brakes suddenly, and do not tap your brake lights to warn the other driver to back off. Slamming on the brakes to get rid of a tailgater is against the law almost everywhere, not to mention that some folks get shot for doing it. You’d be irritating a person who is already angry, which is not too smart. Why make the other guy’s problem your problem? Tapping your brake lights to get an impatient driver to back off is also not a good tactic. While not illegal (but check—there may be exceptions), when you tap your brake lights without actually braking, you are crying “wolf.” You are training the other driver not to take your brake lights seriously. Let’s say you can’t get the guy off your tail and he follows you for several blocks. If something requiring immediate response happens and you actually DO hit the brakes, the tailgater’s reaction time may be longer because he is thinking you are just “tapping” your brake lights again—and by tailgating he is already too close for comfort.

I said slowing down slightly is advised in my first answer, by letting go of the gas a little, hopefully the person behind will go around. If in the left lane, slowing a little is still ok, and you should move to the right to left the faster drive go.

JLeslie's avatar

Some states, several taps on the brake, is supposed to indicate a short stop in an unexpected place on the road. A single tap, I don’t even think an aggressive tailgater would give a shit about. They drive irresposibly, they don’t care.

I guess some states might teach tapping if tailgated. Whatever. It doesn’t sound wise to me, but everyone can do whatever they think is best obviously. It is never a problem for me directly, I don’t tailgate. I get away from tailgaters as soon as I can.

Blueroses's avatar

It may not be entrapment, but it’s certainly bad policy. Small, rural towns are full of assholes. Put some of them on the police force and you just have assholes with authority. Some (not all, by any means) get bored and like to play stupid power games.

Roads like you describe around these parts are prone to sudden appearances of animals. What would have been your options if a deer had wandered in front of you, the left lane was occupied and the cop was on your tail?

Regardless of his possibly having any reason to be suspicious of you, his actions were unsafe. Call the local precinct and report the incident.

robmandu's avatar

To be clear, @JLeslie, I’m not suggesting being tricky or vicious.

Coasting to slow down was my FIRST suggestion was for the driver to make space in the left lane so the tailgater would have an opportunity to pass on around.

Then later, my SECOND suggestion was for the driver to apply light pressure to the brakes in order activate the brake lights with the intention of slowing down slightly while also providing a signal of intention that coasting alone might not do.

Notice that my suggestions are not about “playing games” or “teaching him a lesson”. It’s about controlled, careful, and thoughtful use of a car’s abilities to act and communicate the driver’s intentions to those around her… including the tailgater.

Now, you’re practically hysterical in assuming that the tailgater is so hyper-overreactive that upon seeing brake lights, he’d jam full tilt on his brakes, lose some control over his vehicle, and worse, potentially cause yet another tailgater behind him to also crash as well.

I go back to my earlier point then, in that there’s only so much the driver can do. She cannot be held responsible for the bad driving behavior of those behind her, be it one, two, three, or more daisy-chained tailgaters who are being reckless.

JLeslie's avatar

@robmandu I don’t think you are trying to be tricky. I think most people suggesting tapping breaks are not trying to be tricky. There are people who are being aggressive or angry back at the tailgater, but I do not think that is the sentiment on this Q at all. But break lights, especially on the expressway (which I realize is not the situation here) creates traffic waves, which are annoying to the rest of the drivers behind, they can cause an accident if the tailgater reacts badly, and it is unnecessary. Why would someone who drives so close give a damn about someone tapping their breaks. The tailgater tends to be aggressive in his driving. When I was 16 taking driving in class in MD we were taught to never break to simply slow the car, but to let up on the gas, especially on the highway or at high speeds in general. When I took a driving class because I had a speeding ticket in FL and I wanted to get out of the points, the intructor spoke to exactly the same thing. So, there is too states. People who use the brake unpredictably are scary to me, I can’t predict what they are going to do, and part of safety on the road is being able to predict traffic.

But, again, maybe some states teach it as a “signal” to the driver behind to back off. It’s like the argument that flashing headlights should be used to let the driver in front know I want him to move over. Some people get pissed when someone flashes their lights, I don’t get it. Here isn’t any traffic law that I know if any states that people should use headlight to tell the driver in front, but most states protect the drivers right to communicate with his headlights. Yet, some people on fluther have a big problem with it in past discussions.

I am fine agreeing to disagree if you are.

@all The cop might have been close because he was running her plate. The OP does not have to have done anything wrong. She could be driving a car that is similar in description to a robbery for all we know. There are tons of reasons a cop might stick close to a car.

JLeslie's avatar

@roundsquare Just curious, do you live in a place that has a lot of traffic, very heavy congestions on large roads? I wonder if people see it differentky depending what type of traffic situations they deal with.

roundsquare's avatar

@JLeslie I do now but I don’t drive anymore (since I live in a place with great public transportation and where a car is less than useless). When I did drive, it was not heavily congested traffic.

But I wasn’t giving my view on the question. I was actually giving the legal standard i.e. what it takes for something to legally be entrapment. These are the things you would have to show in a court if you wanted to claim entrapment. (Note that the exact details of the legal test are more complicated than what I put above and will be slightly different for each state).

JLeslie's avatar

@roundsquare I’m sorry I meant @robmandu. I completely agree it is not entrapment. As I said just above, the cop could be following closely for many reasons. He was probably running the plate.

roundsquare's avatar

@JLeslie haha, got it. I was quite confused by your question.

JLeslie's avatar

Yeah, just clicked on the wrong name.

Bugalu's avatar

You can always go to the station and introduce yourself while mentioning the tailgating experience, this happened to me and the officers lights reflecting from my rear view mirror was blinding me, I took a chance and pulled off the road to let the officer proceed. I say I took a chance pulling off the road because I couldn’t see where I was going because of his headlights.
If you introduce yourself at the station, there’ll be no need for them to run your plates or further wondering who you are and why you’re in the area. Don’t just tell them, show your ID. The Sargents can pass along the info.

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