When a police officer clocks out, they often head to work second jobs. This can include security events at parades, working sporting events, and more. Whether they are working other jobs or just heading home after their shift, many people wonder what kind of authority an off-duty police officer has. Can an off-duty cop pull you over for speeding?
Is a police officer ever really off-duty?
When an officer takes their oath, they have their police powers 24 hours a day, not just when they are at work. This includes the power to arrest people and use force against people. Many off-duty police officers do carry their firearms and credentials while off-duty.
To focus on the question – can an off-duty cop pull you over for speeding – we have to look at a few factors.
- Is the officer in a police car? Many departments allow officers to drive their work vehicles home. In these cases, one reason the departments give for allowing take-home cars is that the officer can respond faster when coming on-duty. In some departments, an officer is on-duty when they reach their jurisdiction before they ever get to the station, if they go to the station at all.
- Were you in that officer’s jurisdiction? This can be tricky. Some officers do not have jurisdiction outside of the government entity they work for unless they are actively working on a criminal case. For example, a Phoenix city officer is not going to pull people over outside of the city for speeding violations.
If an officer is in a police car and in their jurisdiction, they could pull you over for speeding. You could fight this in court if you discover they are off-duty, but remember, they do not lose their police powers when they clock out. If they can prove you were speeding, the ticket will likely stand.
Are there other ways for an officer to get you for speeding?
If an officer is in their off-duty vehicle, or not in a vehicle at all, there would not be a way for them to accurately measure your speed. It may be obvious that you are speeding, but without proof, a ticket would not go very far. However, an off-duty officer could get on the phone and call the dispatcher or another officer that they know is working in the area and make them aware that there is a speeding driver.
In most cases, off-duty officers will not involve themselves in a non-emergency situation such as a speeding driver. They usually do not have the equipment necessary to make a safe stop while off-duty.
Safety tips to remember
If you are being pulled over by a police officer and it is at night time or in an area where there is nobody else around, you should pull into a well-lit area with people around. You can call 911 or the police department in the jurisdiction you are in and ask them if an officer is making a stop on you.
If you are being pulled over by a vehicle that does not look like a police car, do not pull over right away. Drive slowly and call 911 to let them know what is happening.
If you have been given a speeding ticket and you know the officer was off-duty, you should contact an attorney who handles criminal cases or traffic violations who will look at the entire case.