Police officers cannot stop drivers simply because they think they may have committed a crime. Under state law, police must have “reasonable suspicion” to stop a vehicle. Failing to have reasonable suspicion to support a traffic stop is a violation of constitutional rights.
Reasonable suspicion is a standard of proof, just like probable cause is a standard of proof that police must meet before conducting a search or making an arrest. However, reasonable suspicion is a lesser standard than probable cause. If a reasonable person would believe that a person is involved in illegal behavior, based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation, then reasonable suspicion exists. Police must be able to identify specific facts that led them to have reasonable suspicion that a person has, is, or will commit a crime.
Various situations can give police officers the reasonable suspicion required for a traffic stop. For instance, the police may have reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle if they observe any of the following behaviors in drivers:
- Speeding or driving below the posted speed limit
- Failing to maintain their lanes
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Making illegal turns, braking frequently, or other traffic violations
Furthermore, state law requires that vehicles be safe and operated following state and local laws. If a driver has a headlight or brake light out, or a sticker on the vehicle has expired, the police may have the reasonable suspicion necessary to stop a vehicle.
When police officers do not have reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle, they are violating the driver’s constitutional rights. As a result, any evidence that police obtained during the stop, such as illegal drugs, open containers of alcohol, or other indicators of criminal activity, can be excluded from consideration at a trial on the criminal charges. The prosecution cannot benefit from the wrongful traffic stop or any evidence that police collect during that stop. In some cases, an improper traffic stop can lead to the dismissal of criminal charges due to a lack of admissible evidence.
Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.