As a driver, you most likely have been pulled over by police at some point in time. A traffic stop is a detention, and although you haven’t been arrested, you are not free to leave. The police officer must have reasonable suspicion that you were violating traffic laws or committed a crime. And because DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are legal, you may wonder whether officers can stop you at impulse. The retort is no. There is a legal standard on when police can conduct a traffic stop for a crime.
What is Reasonable Suspicion for Detention?
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. constitution makes it unlawful for public officials to conduct illegal searches and seizures. The rule applies to arrests and traffic stops, which is why probable cause and reasonable suspicion are necessary. Further, N.R.S. 171.123 of Nevada statutes outlines the circumstances when a police officer can detain you.
Firstly, an officer can pull you over if circumstances show that you committed or are planning to commit a crime. Some of the things that could arouse suspicion if you are committing a crime include reckless driving, speeding, weaving, erratic swerving, driving at low speed, and abrupt stops. These actions can arouse suspicion in a peace officer that you are driving while intoxicated.
Similarly, police officers can pull you over if circumstances show you have breached or breached probation terms and conditions. In most of these cases, peace officers recognize or know someone violating parole and make the traffic stops. In other cases, the officer is given a specific assignment to apprehend you for violating parole terms.
Another circumstance where the law allows police officers to pull you over for a crime is to corroborate your identity and the suspicious situations surrounding your presence at a particular site. If an officer finds you in a specific location under suspicious circumstances, they have the right to pull you over and ask you to identify yourself. Make sure you stop at a safe place and identify yourself, but you don’t have to answer further questions.
Take note that after the traffic stop, the officer is not allowed to detain you for more than one hour without arrest. Sixty minutes are enough for the officer to confirm your identity, whether you have committed a crime or violated probation conditions.
The requirement for reasonable suspicion is critical in traffic stops because it prevents peace officers from detaining motorists based on race, sexual orientation, or gender. You will be pulled over in most cases because you have done something wrong that arouses an officer’s suspicions. Perhaps the officer has pulled you over because you were spotted at a crime scene and matched the culprits’ description. If an officer makes a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, any following arrest is illegal.
An Illegal Stop Doesn’t Make Evidence Inadmissible
It’s not a must for the police officer to have seen you violate traffic laws to make a traffic stop and conduct detention in some incidences. An officer can make a stop to check your driver’s license and car registration. Suppose they find out that you were committing a crime like possession of drugs after stopping you without reasonable suspicion. In such cases, the exclusionary rule requires the evidence obtained from the illegal detention excluded from the case. However, this isn’t always the case.
Take, for instance, an arrest warrant has been issued against you for a crime. Later, a law enforcement officer unaware of the warrant pulls you over, although without reasonable suspicion. While the traffic stop is unlawful, if the officer requests you to identify yourself and finds out you have a warrant, the officer can go ahead and make an arrest. If the officer conducts a search and finds contraband in your possession, the evidence will be admissible in court.
How Do Courts Establish the Legality of a Traffic Stop?
To determine whether the police pull over was lawful or not, the court analyzes the following conduct by the police officer:
- What was the first action the officer took?
- Were the actions by the officer justified?
- If the actions are justifiable, what evidence supports the justification?
- Was the conduct by the officer appropriate depending on court rulings on the necessary justification?
- Did the police officer perform an activity customarily, distinct to the basis of the stop?
- If it was the case, what was the conduct, and was it justifiable?
An officer authorizes an unlawful traffic stop when they pull you over without proper evidence that there has been a law violation. Driving during the wee hours is not enough for an officer to stop you because this is a mere hunch that doesn’t meet the legal standard of reasonable suspicion.
Evaluating the officer’s behavior at the traffic stop’s time can also help the court learn if the traffic stop was a pretext stop. These are cases where an officer has a reasonable suspicion you have committed or are committing a crime but has some other motivation for pulling you over. Note that the Supreme Court considers pretext stops lawful if the stop’s inception was legal and supported by reasonable suspicions.
Also, even if an officer mistakenly pulls you over, the stop is not illegal if the mistake was due to a law’s misinterpretation.
If you suspect the traffic stop by the arresting officer was illegal, you need to hire a defense attorney so that you can build your defense based on the legality of the stop.
Find a Bail Bonds Service Near Me
If an officer pulled you over and detained you without reasonable suspicion, you have a basis for challenging the charges filed against you. However, you need to secure a release first to fight the charges out of jail. At Express Bail Bonds, we are available to ease the pressure that comes with an arrest and detention in Las Vegas by performing all the duties required to secure your freedom. Contact our bail bondsman at 702-633-2245 to begin the process of securing a release.