“PBA” stands for the Police Benevolent Association and nearly every police officer in the United States is a member. Friends and family members of police officers will sometimes be issued a PBA Courtesy Card. A PBA card will usually have printed on it, “The bearer of this card is a supporter of the PBA and you should try to extend every courtesy possible.”
When you are pulled over by an officer, you provide your license and registration to the officer. However, one who is fortunate enough to have been issued a PBA card will also hand that to the officer.
Contrary to popular belief, the date on the PBA card really is not that significant. What matters most is whether the officer who pulled the driver over knows the officer’s name on the card (i.e. the officer who issued the card).
Generally, if the officer who pulls the driver over has heard of the officer on the card (and the driver is polite and respectful), the driver will not be given a ticket. Sometimes the officer will issue a warning or simply say “Okay. Drive safely and have a great day.”
Not All PBA Cards are Treated Equally
Many do not realize this, but not all PBA cards are treated the same. If the card you receive is a general PBA card and it does not have an officer’s name or badge number on it, it may not get you out of a ticket.
However, if the officer is very nice, he or she might ask you what officer issued you the card, what jurisdiction he or she is from, and how you know him or her. If you politely and cordially answer all of these questions, you might get out of the ticket even with a basic PBA card.
Nevertheless, the closer you are with the officer and the more well-known he is in the force, the greater the chance you have of avoiding a ticket.
The best type of PBA card you can have is one that contains the name and badge number of an officer who is well-respected throughout the state. If an officer knows that you have a connection to a well-regarded officer, you can usually avoid receiving a traffic ticket.
PBA Cards are Not a Guarantee
There are several myths out there about PBA cards. Many people think that a PBA card is like a “get out of jail free card.” This simply is not the case. Having a PBA card can be like gambling. Many variables go into whether it can help you or not and there is no guarantee that it will help at all.
Remember, attitude matters. If you are arrogant or rude, that is a sure fire way for you to get a ticket (no matter whose name appears on your PBA card).
Additionally, drivers sometime think that a PBA card will last forever. In many cases, the officer who pulls you over will return it, but that is not always the case. I have heard several stories of drivers who got out of a ticket, but their PBA card was taken from them!
Ultimately, there is no formal system for what to do when a driver hands an officer a PBA card. However, one thing is for use, without a close connection to an officer on the force, a PBA card will not be too helpful.
Is it Unethical or Illegal to Use a PBA Card to Get Out of a Ticket?
We advise extreme caution when it comes to using PBA cards. Trying to influence an officer (even if you do not offer a bribe) can be illegal or at least perceived badly by the officer.
If you “rub the officer the wrong way,” he may use his or her discretion to be harsher on you. That could mean additional tickets, or, in the case of a minor crime, an arrest instead of merely an appearance ticket with a court date.
Police officers have a lot of discretion. If they see you speeding and not signaling before you change lanes and not wearing a seat belt, they can ticket you for all of the above, some of the above, or none of the above.
Remember, showing a police officer a PBA card in itself is not illegal per se because if he or she considers it and decides to be more lenient, that is within his or her discretion. However, making a statement like “officer can you please let me off” or “can you please give me a break” in conjunction with handing over the card may be construed as trying to improperly influence the officer.