Warning (traffic stop)

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When a traffic stop is made, a warning issued by the officer is a statement that the motorist has committed some offense, but is being spared the actual citation. Officers can use their own discretion whether to issue a citation or warning.[1] The motorist may receive the warning either verbally or as a written slip of paper stating the infraction, but will not be charged with the offense, will not have to pay a fine, and will not receive any points. Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, the warning may or may not appear on records visible to officers, which if it does, could result in another stop within a fixed period of time leading to an actual citation, or in some cases, the motorist may be charged with both offenses.

A warning may be viewed by some drivers as a lucky break. But many police departments will keep track of warnings given so the driver involved may be at risk for receiving an actual citation if another stop is made.

In some places, officers see the advantage to giving warnings as being less paperwork. They enable officers to use their time more efficiently, and reduce the likelihood that the officer will have to appear in court.[2]

Criticism of warnings[edit]

The idea of giving warnings to some motorists has been criticized because it is possible that officers may be offering warnings to some motorists and not to others based on favoritism, singling them out over factors such as their race, attractive appearance, the vehicle they are driving, the way they are dressed, or their social class, for example.

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