When is a traffic stop by police unlawful?
The police cannot pull you over or search your vehicle without a good reason. If they do, that is a violation of your rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects you from arbitrary searches and seizures by law enforcement.
For a traffic stop to be lawful, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. For example, if you were driving erratically, the police may stop you on suspicion of reckless or drunk driving. However, if the police do not have a justifiable reason for pulling you over, the traffic stop may be unlawful. In many cases, the police claim to have a good reason for a traffic stop, but the reason provided by police later in court turns out not to be valid.
What does an unlawful traffic stop mean for you?
Suppose the police pull you over without a legally justifiable reason, and during the traffic stop, the police search your car and find illegal drugs. In that case, since the traffic stop was unlawful, you may challenge the legality of evidence obtained against you from the search. Such evidence may be inadmissible in court because the police acquired it during an unlawful traffic stop.
Inadmissible evidence can have a major impact on a criminal case. For example, if the court throws out a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against you, that could lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.
It’s important to have skilled legal representation to protect your rights
When faced with a criminal charge, many people give up and take a plea deal because they are not aware of their rights. Even when the evidence against you seems overwhelming, every aspect of your case should be carefully scrutinized for any rights violations or failures in police procedure. To do that, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney — someone who is familiar the details of police procedure and how to get charges reduced or dismissed when rights violations occur.
For more on related matters, please see our previous posts: “Can police in Florida search a person’s trash can?” and “The problem of overcharging in criminal prosecutions.”