Over the years I’ve seen this scenario unfold hundreds if not thousands of times. A car is pulled over. As a result of the exchange between the officer and the driver or occupant, something is uncovered that was not known prior the stop.
- The drivers’ license is suspended
- The driver is intoxicated or under the influence
- There are drugs, guns, or other contraband in the vehicle
- There is a warrant out for an occupant
Obviously, all of these discoveries can have unfortunate consequences. An effective criminal defense lawyer may be able to prohibit the State from using evidence uncovered because of the stop, and successfully argue that if a car was stopped unlawfully, that everything that was discovered as a result of that stop should be kept out of court.
Police need a “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is ongoing to pull you over.
The US constitution guarantees that all of us have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures at the hands of the government. We have a right to go about our business without baseless interference. The courts have interpreted the 4th Amendment to mean, in part, that police or other law enforcement personnel can’t simply stop and detain you for no reason, or no good reason. The standard required to justify a roadside stop – to pull a driver over- is called “reasonable suspicion” and requires the government to demonstrate a connection between their observations and some unlawful conduct.
The officer must be able to point to specific facts that led to his or her conclusion and that there is a logical connection between what they see and some criminal activity.
If the stop is challenged by a lawyer, the Government must articulate specific facts that support the top. The approach is a “common sense” one. In other words, what would a reasonable, experienced officer deduce from what they are seeing? It has to be more than what the courts call a “mere hunch” that something nefarious might be going one
Witnessing a vehicle being operated in violation of the motor vehicle laws of the jurisdiction is invariably a sufficient basis for a stop.
This is perhaps the classic incarnation of stop supported by probable cause. The officer sees the defendant violating the Rules of Road in the Transportation Article. But what about a situation where no specific law was broken, but there is suspicious conduct? [e.g. weaving]. If the officer did not have a valid reason for the stop, the court may exclude evidence uncovered after the stop from trial. In many instances, perhaps most, if the government can’s use its evidence, the defendant will be acquitted.