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Police officers need a reason to stop a vehicle

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Criminal Law |

When someone gets pulled over, it can’t just be a random stop. Even if it turns out that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, for example, the police still need to have a reason to initially pull a car over for a stop to be lawful. They cannot just stop vehicles at random and administer breath tests, hoping to finally catch someone who is over the legal limit.

With that being said, there are many potential reasons for police officers to stop a car. If they want to make a traffic stop, they can usually find an initial justification that will pass legal muster.

Evidence of impairment

If a driver is impaired by alcohol, an officer may see some evidence of that in the way that they drive. Maybe they are weaving within their lane or straddling the centerline. If the officer sees a motorist make driving mistakes that may indicate impairment, that’s enough to conduct a traffic stop.

Equipment issues

It’s also important to remember that police can pull people over because of equipment issues with their vehicle, such as a broken headlight, dark window tint or even something hanging from the rearview mirror that can obstruct the driver’s vision. A police officer may not know that a driver is impaired at the time, but they would have justification for the stop, and they may see other signs of impairment – such as smelling alcohol on the person’s breath – after they stop them.

Breaking the speed limit

It’s also crucial to note that drivers can technically be pulled over for going even one mile over the speed limit. This may seem like a minor infraction, but any amount of speeding can trigger a traffic stop. An officer may have intended to give a driver a warning for doing something like merely going five miles an hour over the legal limit. But if that traffic stop leads to allegations of impaired driving, the whole situation becomes much more serious. This is also true for other minor infractions like not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.

What options do drivers have?

When drivers are arrested on allegations of impaired driving, it’s important for them to question whether or not the initial traffic stop was legal by seeking legal guidance. They need to carefully consider all of the defense options they have at their disposal, which may include having their attorney suppress any evidence that was obtained unlawfully as a result of an unjustified stop.