Over the years of living in Mexico, the topic of “the bribe” always comes up every so often.
I’ve had my own moments of paying the bribe as you can read here.
I’ve also heard the stories of countless other gringos where they had to pay a bribe also (not just in Mexico though but in various Latin American countries).
In fact, I’ve even tried to help out a tiny bit by writing articles on how to handle bribes in Mexico with advice that you can read here.
However, to be fair, the advice in those articles is just from my perspective only.
And, on top of that, it’s all advice based on the life of someone who doesn’t have a car in Mexico or broader Latin America.
In a sense, one could see how the advice I would give based on that factor alone (being demanded for a bribe while driving versus walking) can change the calculus.
After all, while walking, no cop can say to me “give me a bribe or I’m taking your car.”
And, given I don’t have any experience dealing with bribes while driving a vehicle I own in Latin America, I’m not so experienced in giving advice on that specific context.
Thankfully, I met along with another gringo who has lived in Mexico for various years just like me who was willing to give me his advice on how to handle Mexican cops demanding a bribe down here while driving on the road.
This is a longer term friend of mine here in Mexico who has permanent residency and has a car in Mexico.
His name is Blayde and he does have a car here (with experience riding around in the vehicles of friends and being pulled over for bribes in other occasions).
What should you do then?
Well, as I said, this is all his advice only.
I can’t say how much of it works given I’ve never tried but, based on how I know things work here in Mexico, what he told me doesn’t sound unusual.
It does sound smart to me!
Plus, given I know the dude, I trust the advice in general also.
So let’s get to it!
The Advice on Handling Bribes in Mexico While Driving
Before we get to Blayde’s advice, I will throw in my 2 cents.
As I wrote here, I don’t think it’s the worst idea to actually show you speak Spanish. In my experience, showing you speak Spanish has helped me more than playing the “dumb gringo” who pretends to not understand the cop.
Also, some people will say that it’s a bad idea to agree to bribing the cop for various reasons.
Depending on the circumstance, it can work (especially if you don’t have much to give and don’t feel like dicking around for too long so you show him you only have 10 bucks on you without a debit card on hand so it’s a “take it or leave it” situation for the cop).
Anyway, let’s get to Blayde’s advice!
First, from what we’ve heard, there’s only a few cases where a cop can legally take your vehicle. They supposedly include, as of this writing in 2022, the following:
- It’s involved in an accident where someone got hurt.
- Your driver’s license or circulation permit is not current.
- Your vehicle was reported as stolen.
- It doesn’t have the air pollution stamp current.
If they are demanding to take your vehicle, push for a ticket when they threaten to “tow” your car. It’ll be a lot of paperwork for them to do so and not legal.
Second, you can always call the officer’s bluff when he threatens to take you to the police station.
Given the amount of legal work involved and the risk that you’ll call him out to his superiors, he might decide “fuck it” and let you go eventually if you show that you are willing to dedicate the time to go to the police station.
Third, as I said before, demand the ticket!
Know that in Mexico, from what I’ve heard, you get a 50% discount anyway on the ticket price if you pay in the first 3 days.
But when demanding it where they want a bribe, a lot of cops won’t give it to you anyway when they want a bribe and will just let you go.
Fourth, should you record the cop while doing this?
Blayde thinks it’s a good idea and I’ve heard other foreigners and Mexicans use this approach.
Personally, I wouldn’t because my phone is actually quite expensive and I don’t want the motherfucker throwing it to the ground or stealing it from me (and I have heard of cops stealing phones down here).
If it was my burner phone that’s only worth 30 bucks, then sure.
Just make sure you got a good grip on it in case the fucker tries to knock it out of your hands.
Anyway, from what I’ve heard, it can scare some cops so who knows.
Fifth, be respectful. I know this isn’t advice that I’d follow.
I know for a fact that, given my attitude in these situations (especially if I was drunk), I know I’d have a hard time not laughing in the dude’s face calling him a faggot.
“HAHAHAHA OYE MARICAAAAA, QUIERES MORDIDA?!!? QUIERES MORDIDA?!!? NO TIENES PLATA PA DAR COMIDA A TU FAMILIA!?!? POBRECITOOOO, MUERTO DE HAMBRE!!! SABES Q TU ESPOSA ME ESTA COGIENDO?!!? MARICA, MARICAAA, MARICAAAA EREESSS!”
I do NOT recommend you say that unless you want to throw fists with the motherfucker (and spend many nights in jail after his buddies arrive to break your nose).
Still, try to be respectful! I know it’s hard with the “polipuerco.”
Sixth, from what I heard, you should ask for “la atencion” and “la clave” if you are driving with out of town plates and there is a legitimate inpound for some offenses so that way you don’t get stopped again.
Seventh, I heard you can call 911 and ask for the officer’s name and ID number while stopped. Supposedly that will scare the shit out of those looking for a bribe. Apparently a lot of the cops looking for a bribe are working outside of their time anyway and supervision so it would be suspicious on their end to be caught working then anyhow.
Eighth, from what I heard, supposedly the device that shows your speed if they claim you were speeding has to print a sterilized ticket with the datetime of the incident. Without it, you can assume the cop is full of shit supposedly.
Ninth, know that speeding isn’t punishable by towing.
Tenth, when stopped, make sure to empty your wallet and throw the cash and your debit/credit cards under the seat or something with the exception of like 200 pesos or something and back in your pocket before the cop addresses you. That way, if you feel like paying a bribe, you can say “this is all I got on me.” When he sees that it all you got, that obviously limits the amount he’d expect from a bribe (in my experience as well).
Eleventh, when discussing the bribe and he doesn’t like what you can offer, just say to him “either give me the ticket or take the bribe. Your call.”
Twelfth, when driving, aim for 5 below the limit and on the right side to reduce risk.
Thirteenth, have an IAVE. It’s an electronic pass of sorts that will help explain why you don’t have cash on you if you wish to claim as such. Where you say something like “the company didn’t give me any cash for my trip, just with this. No cards, sorry. Just give me the ticket then.”
Fourteenth, know that certain officers have less jurisdiction than others depending on where you got pulled over. That meaning the difference between a state or federal officer, if you got pulled over on municipal lines, etc. From what I heard, only the Guardia Nacional have jurisdiction on federal roads.
Fifteenth, you can always call your embassy for help but I doubt this would help much in the moment. It depends on the country you are from I imagine and time of day you are calling. Perhaps even doing so alone could scare the corrupt cop since they don’t know shit about embassies and hotlines so keep that in mind.
Sixteenth, I’ve heard that in some parts of Mexico, like in Estado de Mexico, that robbers have stolen police patrol cars. It might not be a cop you are dealing with then but a robber. Still, you’d have little idea I suppose on knowing what you are dealing with but just keep that in mind.
Anyway, in Mexico City, if you want to know if it’s a real cop, have the app Mi Policia in your phone. It has an emergency button if you are a victim of a crime and also an option to type in the number of the police badge to see if the dude is a real cop.
There are some other signs to look out for, including:
- The cops are wearing sneakers and not real police boots.
- They have hats with the national emblem but no affiliation with a police department.
- No insignia.
- The cars are out of date with the patrol cars currently used.
Seventeenth, supposedly having foreign plates will make you a bigger target than local plates (and probably having blonde hair and blue eyes or being black or Asian would also). Even Mexicans who have plates from other Mexican states can be targets.
Eighteenth, if extorted for cash, reach out to the Ministerio Publico to report it and find out where the cop supposedly works (remember his name and all that). As I wrote here, the Ministerio Publico isn’t always good in Mexico but I have heard of cases where the cops got reported for these cases and punished. Keep it in mind for afterwards.
Nineteenth, don’t let yourself get into the situation where they drive you to the ATM machine to withdraw money. That’s express kidnapping and really any situation where they smell blood and think that they can get more out of you will be worse for you obviously.
Twentieth, having a Mexican friend who speaks fluent Spanish helps or at least a foreign friend who has been in Latin America long enough.
Twenty-First, tell them that your friend or “partner” already paid the fine a few blocks back and that he gave you a “pass code” but don’t remember it. Sometimes that can work. Would probably need Spanish though.
Twenty-Second, know your rights. Know that they can’t legally be inside your car and you can supposedly just show them your ID throw your window. Granted, given this is Mexico, I’m not confident these two rules are always respected. They aren’t always in the US either as you can see here.
Twenty-Third, ask them for their name, patrol number and plaque number. They are legally obliged to do so and if you see them rip off their badge or something or identifying information, that’s a bad sign.
Anything to Add?
That’s all the advice I could come up with and was told by others (not just Blayde).
If you got anything to add or have anything to comment on regarding the advice given here, drop a comment below in the comment section.
I’m more than ready to adjust the advice above if I find it accurate and able to help others who want to drive in Mexico and could find themselves in this situation where a cop wants a bribe.
While I doubt even 10,000 people will read this article, it’d be nice to know that it helped at least one person out there.
Anyway, thanks for reading.
And, for those of us who have paid a bribe before to Latin American cops over the years here, this is a video here dedicated to you all.
Goodfellas -- Henry Gets Pinched
“AY, YOU BROKE A CHERRY!!!”
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