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Law Enforcement – To Inform or Not to Inform

*Podcast Alert: Episode 3 of The Concealed Carry Podcast goes into more depth on this topic. Listen here.

Recently a man made national headlines when he traveled into the state of New Jersey for work and was arrested when he volunteered to an officer that he had a firearm in his vehicle. The man, from North Carolina was unfamiliar with New Jersey law and felt he was doing his duty by informing the officer and was unaware that he was in fact breaking New Jersey law by having the firearm in his vehicle in that way in the first place. Today's article is not meant to focus on all the things wrong with New Jersey or any other state. I feel that the above story and many others like it make an American gun owner ask the question, “Should I inform law enforcement that I have my firearm or not?”

Before we go to much further let me also disclaim that in this conversation I'm assuming that you have a firearm and have it in the vehicle legally. The question we are debating today is not if you are obeying or breaking the law by having the firearm, but if you would be wise or foolish to inform law enforcement that you have it with you at all.

tell cop you have a gun

Know Your Own State Inside and Out

In your own state you should be fully fluent with the potential consequences. Here is what we suggest you research:

  • Am I required to inform the officer that I have a permit and/or gun?
  • Am I required to inform the officer if they ask?
  • In my state will the officer likely find out that I have a permit despite me not telling them?
  • What is the general local attitude of law enforcement in relation to private citizens carrying firearms?

If you have a hard time finding the answers we recommend you reach out to a local firearm instructor (or 2…) or a local criminal defense attorney. Once you have the answers to these questions you can exercise good judgement (see below).

Know What States Require You Inform the Officer

Some states have specific laws in place that require you inform an officer if you have a concealed carry permit and/or gun.

Blue = If Asked
Green = No duty
Red = Required to Notify
Yellow = Varies by City or County

*Warning… you should to do your own research. We won't be held liable for decisions you make based on the information on this website.

Use Your Best Judgement

If you live in a state that doesn't require you inform the officer but in which the officer is likely to find out you have a permit when they access your driving record and/or registration then you may find it easiest to be the one who discloses the firearm up front instead of waiting for the officer to find out from a computer. Law enforcement officers hate surprises and the idea that you may have a gun and didn't tell them about it is a not so fun surprise.

If you live in a state in which law enforcement doesn't require you notify them and in which they would be unlikely to discover you have a permit in the course of a standard traffic stop, then you may decide that things will be far faster and more simple if you don't bring up the topic of the firearm in the car. That could very well be the case.

Police Stop

Consider factors that can dramatically change the situation. Anything that may happen that will increase the suspicion of the officer during the confrontation could potentially escalate into a worse situation when they discover that you didn't disclose the firearm in the car. For example, if you decide not to say anything, but the officer thinks that potentially you have been drinking and starts to question you about where you have been and what you have been doing… and requests you exit the car… you should recognize at this point that the firearm is going to dramatically impact the situation if the officer discovers it on their own versus you disclosing it up front. So, look for clues that this is more than just a simple traffic stop. If the partner also exits the vehicle, if the officer is unusually standoffish, or if they begin to ask questions beyond the standard “do you know how fast you were going,” that may be a good time to disclose the firearm.

It can be a difficult decision to make in the moment. You may say to yourself, if I don't mention this gun I may get out of here in less than 10 minutes. If I do mention it I will likely drag this situation out to 15-20 minutes. However, if for some reason I don't mention it and the officer finds out anyway that I have the firearm this may very well spin into a very uncomfortable 30 minutes.

Another Way of Thinking

While I would describe the above considerations as an industry best practice I will also disclaim that they are my own opinion and many in the industry disagree on this point. There are many who would recommend a very different approach. There are some who feel strongly that because you have rights to not submit to questioning, searches, or seizures, you shouldn't do any of the above. If the law doesn't require you to disclose the firearm you are carrying then you should under no circumstances disclose it. This line of thinking is naturally inclined to be more likely to ensure your rights are protected should something unusual happens that makes the confrontation go from normal to very unusual.

Those are my best thoughts on the subject… what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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36 Responses to Law Enforcement – To Inform or Not to Inform

  1. Tom A August 25, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    I tell my students that if I am not required to notify, I won’t do it. Having said that, I agree that it is always smart to evaluate the situation and make the smartest decision. I also tell them that they must know the law. If they are in a state where they can legally carry, but don’t know the notification law, always notify. Some states, like Oklahoma, require you to notify immediately. Do so immediately! The phrase is, “I have a valid permit to carry a firearm, and I want to notify you now that I am in possession of a firearm. It is located…” Finally, never reach or otherwise try to show an officer where your firearm is.

    • Ralph Baldi May 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

      I always tell, and then hand over my 2 states CCW’s with my licence.I never carry in one of the states that will not honor my permits, but store in my car using that states preferred way as listed on there web sites. I also copy There laws and have that ready to help answer any question an officer may have.Most of all I treat ALL LEO’s with respect.

  2. Saddletramp August 25, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    Arizona is also a state that requires you notify an officer, should he / she confront you, that you are carrying a weapon

    • Jacob Paulsen August 25, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

      I checked 13-2102 and checked with the Arizona attorney general’s office and the law states that you must accurately answer the officer if the officer asks. However there is no legal obligation to volunteer the information. If you find something different can you provide the source so I can confirm? Thanks!!

    • Allen Benge August 25, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      Arizona used to require you to notify an officer that you were armed anytime you had any contact with one. Apparently, since it is missing from your list, it is no longer a legal requirement. In Washington, your Concealed Pistol License is tied to your Driver’s License and registration. An officer, if he pulls you over, knows that someone in the vehicle may be armed. I feel it is just good manners to let the know you have a license and are carrying. I make it a practice of handing the officer my license with my DL. I have been stopped once, and he did not seem concerned about it. Thank you, Jacob, they have changed the law, good to know if I go to visit family.

    • Paul Morris September 4, 2015 at 11:35 am #

      I have carried concealed (with permit) in Arizona and have been through the training and was informed by the instructor (a LEO) that you do not have to inform the officer you are carrying UNLESS they ask you. It may have changed in the last ten years but I don’t think it has.

  3. Steven August 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    I was recently pulled over for a very minor infraction. I live in Texas. The very 1st thing I said to the L.E.O. was that I had a chl and a firearm in my center console. He handed him both my D.L. and CHL. He asked me if I knew why I was being stopped and I honestly didn’t know because I know I wasn’t speeding…I had made a turn into the wrong lane on a right hand turn. I was so afraid of the cost. I told him I had never even had a speeding ticket. He was such a nice guy! I asked how much the ticket was going to be and he replied, “$9000.00. Then he said, “Just kidding, I’m not writing you a ticket, just a warning”, they don’t cost anything. He never once even asked to see my firearm, and we talked for awhile. I told him he was my hero of the day. I then informed him that I have 3 friends that are L.E.O.’s and that they were like him…really good guys! Police is like everything else, there are a lot of good one and there are some bad ones…human nature!

  4. Robert H. August 25, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    Although Texas law does require “notification” to a LEO if you have a Concealed Handgun License and you are armed with your handgun as mentioned in your article, current Texas Law has ZERO penalty for not disclosing the fact that you are armed and have a Texas CHL. Sounds really crazy but true. As there is ZERO penalty, I tell all my students NOT to inform the LEO if all the LEO asked for was your Driver License. I do tell my students to inform the LEO that they are armed and have a Texas CHL only IF the LEO asks if they are armed. Some PD’s will disarm you if you volunteer info without being asked (happened to me).

    • Steven June 3, 2016 at 8:49 am #

      In Texas it’s the law! You MUST tell the L.E.O. that you are carrying and give him your CHL. If you don’t do that you could loose your CHL and your gun…bad advise. I have worked a lot with Police in Michigan and I can tell you if you think about it wouldn’t you like to know the person you’re pulling over is armed? Of course you would!

  5. dan baber August 25, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Here in Texas, when at a traffic stop, the first thing we show the officer is our CHL and answer in the affirmative when asked “Are you armed”? They ask first, “Are you armed”? even before DL and insurance.

    • Robert H. August 25, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

      Dan:
      I wish all Texas LEO’s during a traffic stop would ask if any occupants are armed, but alas, not all jurisdictions do that. I personally have never been asked if I’m armed FIRST, except by a State Trooper, but then I don’t get pulled over very often…..

  6. Kay August 25, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    I have been stop once and I kept both hands on the wheel. Then when the officer got to the car I told him I had a permit and a weapon A friend who is a cop told me that was the way to do it in Washington.

    • Nick August 25, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

      Washingotn State have no requirement to inform, but they know when they run your number plate if it is your name. Your CPL is lik=nked to your driving license, whcih is linked to your number plates and registration. They may not persue the issue, but if they ask for your CPL you MUST provide it (whether you are carrying or not). Disarming you, or inspecting the handgun is up to them, and I am not clear whether we MUST comply. If I am a passenger in a vehicle stopped by LE in Washignton I will not volunteer. If LE ask if anyone else is armed, then I must.

    • Allen Benge August 25, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

      Very good, Kay. One thing to remember, is don’t just blurt out, “I have a gun.” Not good form, and can cause no end of troubles.

      • Rod Manning April 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

        Never use the word “gun” when answering the LEO. That word automatically triggers (no pun intended) a physical response by some officers. Try, firearm or pistol. Doesn’t sound as threatening.

  7. TexasOyler1947 August 26, 2015 at 3:09 am #

    I am a transplanted Texan living in NC (via my active duty as an SF Medic and 82d Airborne Division PA). I consider NC to be a big county of Texas. Anyhow, I was pulled over by a Fayetteville, NC, LEO, while driving my 1970 Pontiac Lemans Sport convertible back in June. The LEO asked if I knew why he pulled me over, and I said no, and then informed him of my CCW license and that I was carrying. He said he wasn’t concerned about my CCW, but that I was going 61 in a 55 zone, but stated he really wanted to get a better look at my car because his 1st cart was just like mine. Said for me to slow down, and he really liked my car. I thanked him for his service and graciousness. First time I ever got pulled over for only going 6 MPH over the limit, but I really believe it was my car. Kinda wished he’d asked to see my weapon (an S&W SD9VE) cuz I just bought it and was hoping he would comment on it. I could see he was carrying a Ruger SR45 with SS slide, which I am thinking of also purchasing.

  8. Matthew August 26, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    For those of you who believe the officer “should know” that you have a concealed handgun license because it is tied to your vehicle registration, please understand a few things: 1)officers may not run your plate prior to the stop 2)if they do run your plate, the information coming back from the dispatcher or computer may be delayed, inaccurate or the system may be down 3)people drive other people’s vehicle so just because the registered owner has a license, does not mean the driver of the vehicle is the registered owner.

    • Dave June 2, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

      Matthew, the very first thing an officer does before making a stop is radio his dispatcher with the registration of the vehicle and the reason for the stop, most of the time the make and color of the vehicle and where the stop is being made. If something happens to the officer they know where to start looking. Very seldom if ever does the complete system go down, maybe the officers NCIC may go down but they can usually get the registration run by a neighboring department. Rest assured they will get the needed information. Even in Ohio if you are stopped you have a responsibility to notify and if you are stopped in any other state you must notify but if you are not carrying or you are driving someone else’s vehicle and you and are not carrying you do not have to notify. Just thought you should know.

  9. Randy Crawford August 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    In Iowa, I never say what I am or am not carrying, and am never asked. They know automatically from the radio call they get from the dispatcher that I have a CCW and might be expected to be carrying. In any event, laws “requiring” people to disclose their weapons holdings (or not) are unconstitutional in various ways. “Requiring” you to do this or that with your speech (talk or not in a certain way or not) is a violation of 1st Amendment freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has already specified Miranda rights to silence for suspected criminals, after all. If you are suspected of being a criminal, you have the right to silence right there. If you are not suspected of being a criminal, nobody including law enforcement has any right to obligate you to this or that speech, or detain you. Tampering with your right to keep AND bear arms is a violation of everyone’s 2nd Amendment rights. It’s up to you and no one else. Snooping into what you do or do not have (particularly on your ‘person’ and as to your ‘effects’ is a violation of your 4th Amendment right to privacy. And trying to obligate you or anybody into helping snoop on yourself or anyone else is a violation of your 13th Amendment protections from involuntary servitude, i.e. becoming a slave of Obama, Bloomberg, Pelosi, Schumer, Clinton, Feinstein, and their fellow similarly afflicted aspiring dictators. They don’t disclose their business, so they have no business snooping into my business or yours. If you don’t stand up for your rights, who do you think will?

    • Paul Russell August 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

      Good luck with that argument during your court case if you’re ever pulled over in a state that requires you to notify the LEO. Be sure to post the outcome when it’s over.

      • GW September 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

        He won’t be able to, he’ll be in jail…

    • Dave June 2, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Dang Randy you referenced the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and the 13th Amendment in your rant. I believe that is a new record. All that just to say that Iowa is not a required state to notify an officer. We all knew that by reading the very informative given above by the author. Oh yeah nice come back Paul Russell you are right on with your answer.

    • John Stadtmiller June 2, 2016 at 10:45 pm #

      Randy you are the only one that has made any sense on this blog. A permit or license is the State giving you permission to do something that they have said is illegal for you to do. No protection of property [that being you]. A permission granted by the State is revocable by same. The incremental police state is inching ever closer. The FBI has been telling the LEO’S for quite some time that sovereign citizens are a grave threat to their safety even during a routine traffic stop. That they would rather drop you on the spot than talk to them. The sovereign by the way are the people that believe that we are not a democracy. That we are a Republic with God given or unalienable rights. They were to be inviolate. I believe in the rule of law, the original intent of the founders by way of the Constitution What you are seeing now is the administrative state. Rules and regulations and policy. As long as people are willing to keep compromising they will wake up one day in a country they no longer recognize. Hell I don’t recognize it now. I have spent the last twenty five years of my life trying to educate in earnest to those who would listen. Your wasting your time with those that are making a living issuing permits and enforcing and making a living off that administrative state. I own a network that you should visit sometime. Republicbroadcasting.org In the immortal words of Ben Franklin when asked what kind of government have you given us, his reply was “a Republic, if you can keep it”

      • BTP Holdings June 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

        You are correct, John. We are witnessing the “administrative state” in action. They issue “permits” which allow us to do certain things that would otherwise be unlawful.

    • Casey October 30, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

      Sounds good, but: The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that an officer has the RIGHT to search anywhere in the interior of a vehicle for a weapon where the driver could reach, for his own protection, without probable cause. True, this ruling could, and is used as a precursor to look for contraband, because any dope found while searching for a weapon is seizable.

  10. jim- June 2, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    In my state: no need to notify, ccw not attached to your license, if you are legally able to own a firearm you can carry it in your car (loaded or unloaded ) without a permit (even if you are just passing through our state) The police assume everyone is armed.

  11. BTP Holdings June 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    You are correct, John. We are indeed witnessing the “administrative state” in action.

    Out here in Missouri where I live, the cops will occasionally wave to you when you are walking down the street, That is one reason we now have a new Chief of Police since he noticed the same thing when he came here to interview for the job.

  12. Agent76 June 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    This is what happens when Trial Lawyers run this country folks!

    Apr 5, 2016 Sandy Hook PHONY Dives Behind Car, Runs Away! Newtown HOAX Busted on LIVE TV!

    Sandy Hook FAKE SNIPER busted EVEN WORSE! Caught diving behind a car, then RUNNING AWAY on ABCNEWS LIVE!

    https://youtu.be/Sm4WwjULRJ0

    Mar 23, 2014 Sandy Hook School Shooting Actors Got ‘FREE’ Houses

    https://youtu.be/HRqLV4DiQRE

  13. Reed Martz August 17, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    Thank you for the resource. However, this article is inaccurate. Mississippi is not a duty to inform state. If asked, a licensee must disclose whether he is carrying a firearm to the officer, but there is no affirmative duty to volunteer that information. You can find a complete summary of Mississippi law at http://www.midsouthgunlawyer.com

    • Jacob Paulsen August 18, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

      Reed, good catch. Thank you! I’m updating the article now…

  14. Mr.sloth November 10, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

    I had and officer today tell me I have to inform him, even though I wasn’t carrying my firearm. I was taught in my ccw that it is only *necessary* when I have my firearm in my vehicle, that I don’t have to say anything if I don’t have my firearm, in the vehicle. Am I ill-informed, I live in ohio by the way

    • Jacob Paulsen November 10, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

      The officer is wrong. Ohio code says you have to inform if you have a firearm in the vehicle. Here is the statute. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923 see section 16. In my experience its generally not a good idea to argue with law enforcement over the statute regardless 🙂

    • Matthew Maruster November 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

      Mr. Sloth, Jacob is correct, notification is only required when you have your firearm with you. In my classes, I always recommend telling the officer that you have your permit, but don’t have your firearm with you, as a courtesy as it can help open communication. As a former police officer, I know there are times officers get it wrong. Maybe he/she was new or just confused. In any case, it is a great learning point, and I highly suggest calling the department. You can give them your name/plate number/location and time of stop and they should be able to see who the officer was that stopped you. You can ask to speak to the supervisor, and just mention the facts. Im sure the officer’s Sgt will likely have the officer look up the statute and do some roll call training for the other officers on the squad. Just a suggestion.

    • Matthew Maruster November 13, 2016 at 11:06 am #

      Sorry should have included, I am an instructor in Ohio, so I was referring to your specific question about Ohio law, not in general.

  15. Duane Knorr April 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    In every encounter I have had with LEOs while armed in more than one state I let the officer know up front, I do this as a simple matter of respect. Thus far I have had nothing but good experiences with LEOs and a CCW, they are not antigun, most are on the citizens side on the issue, they just don’t like surprises when it comes to a weapon and I don’t blame them in the least for it. I have simply asked a few friends that are LEOs what their preference is and all have said they would prefer to know, it seems to me that as a simple matter of courtesy and respect for the officers safety. I may change if I have a bad experience with a LEO but so far the simple courtesy and respect approach has served me very well, BTW, I do not use the word fun at all, simply state that I am legal CCW and am or am not currently carrying, or I hand the officer the permit with my license, so far so good.

  16. Lyn November 6, 2017 at 1:46 am #

    I live in Iowa where you are only required to disclose if asked and supposably your CCP is not liked to your DL. I’ve been pulled over twice since I got my permit and both times I was armed. I chose to immediately inform the officer both times that I had a permit to carry and a loaded firearm in the vehicle because I had my kids with me. I would hate for something that would be traumatic for my kids to happen like being drug out of my vehicle, put in handcuffs, or anything else along those lines just because I chose not to disclose that information up front. You never know how a traffic stop is going to go. I recently got a letter in the mail stating that this was my last chance to pay a $22 parking ticket or else the City of Des Moines was going to have my DL &:my ability to renew my registration on any and all vehicles suspended, as well as with hold any state tax refund I might be receiving in order to collect the fine plus whatever else they decided to tack on to it. The real kicker was the ticket was written on a Silver Lexas with my license plate number & my VIN (supposably), but my car is a Green Malibu !! I got it taken care but, the point is even though you know you’ve nothing wrong and there is no reason at all for things to get ugly, it could !!

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