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Ask a Trooper: Be prepared when stopped by an officer

Question: What items do police officers ask you for when you are stopped? I see on television that it is different sometimes like in different states.

Answer: “License and registration Ma’am” isn’t always the case, that’s for sure. I am asked this question frequently and I am happy to answer it for you yet once again, especially since we have so many enforcement projects going on.

In Minnesota, officers typically ask you for two things. The first thing is a valid Minnesota driver license. The second thing is your current proof of insurance. If you don’t have your driver license with you as required by law, then the officer will ask for another form of picture identification and will run your information on the computer for status, warrants and other issues.

As for the insurance proof, the law requires you to carry proof of current insurance for the vehicle you are operating, so that if you are stopped by an officer you will have it available when asked. The insurance proof must contain the vehicle identification information (including make, model and year) as well as the effective and expiration dates of the policy. The date you are stopped has to be within those dates. Carrying around the same card for long periods of time after expiration does not satisfy the law requirements. Officers typically cite you for not having proof of insurance, then you have to settle with the court on the matter, so it pays to keep the current insurance proof in your vehicle so it can be shown to police by the driver if stopped. If you don’t have it now, get a copy from your insurance agent. Electronic proof is now acceptable by law.

Registration cards do not need to be carried in a regular passenger vehicle. If you are operating a commercial motor vehicle, then they do and an officer will ask for that as well. Any other information that is asked of a motorist on a traffic stop will depend on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the contact incident.

After giving you all of this information, I just want to say that of course, driving at safe speeds and always buckling up (including your passengers) are simple ways to avoid a roadside chat with an officer.

If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, 7694 Industrial Park Road, Suite 2 Baxter, MN 6425 or email questions to with Ask a Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.