Drug Possession & Unlawful Traffic Stops

Traffic stop lead to a drug arrest?

BAD STOP = DISMISSED

If the police found evidence after making an illegal traffic stop, the evidence might not be admissible againt you.

Traffic Stops

Most people who are ?detained? by the police are being detained for a traffic violation however the principles apply to anytime the police stop you and you are not free to leave. If you are not free to leave then the law says you are being ?seized? by the police. So the polices actions are evaluated against your protections under the 4th amendment from ?unreasonable seizures.? So what is reasonable and what is unreasonable? The law library is full of courts providing explanations and examples.

Courts view being ?temporarily detained? differently then being arrested. For the police to justifying detaining someone, they must have ?reasonable suspicion? based on ?articulable facts? that a crime has occurred or is occurring. Being arrested requires ?probable cause?.

So what is reasonable suspicion?

Much like the discussion above regarding consensual encounters, there isn?t a real definition of what is reasonable suspicion. Court look at each case and set of facts separately. So we can look to past decisions to help guess at what is and what is not reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion requires more than suspicion or ?hunch.? HOWEVER, reasonable suspicion may exist even where the conduct of the person detained is ?as consistent with innocent activity as with criminal activity.? This means that you don?t have to be doing anything illegal to be detained. You don?t have to actually be speeding to be stopped for speeding if the police can explain that their belief that you were speeding was based on more than suspicion or hunch.

Real Life Example of an Illegal Traffic Stop

A former client was facing high level felony drug possession charges after drugs where found in his car following a traffic stop. In the offense report the police officer wrote that the car was stopped because ?the rear reflectors to be blacked out with an alternate to reduce visibility from factor standard which is a violation of law (defective equipment ? blacked out head/tail lights)?. It was true that the car did have tinted tail lights, the car should not have been able to pass the state inspection because of the reduced visibility and that the traffic code says that any violation of state inspection is also a traffic offense. So the officer, DPS and even the District Attorney?s office believed that it was a ?violation of the law?. This all changed and the client?s case was dismissed once Reese proved them wrong.

Traffic Stop Gone Bad

A perfectly legal traffic stop can easily turn into an illegal detention. Why? Because if the police stop you for speeding, they can?t start investigating you for drug possession without a reason.

What the Police Can Do During a Traffic Stop

    Ask for your Driver?s license.
    Ask for your proof of financial responsibility.
    Ask for proof of your vehicle?s registration.
    Check to see if you have any open warrants for your arrested.
    Police can ask unrelated questions as long as it doesn?t prolong the stop.
    Police can detain you as long as it takes to do the above and write you a citation.

What the Police CANNOT Do During a Traffic Stop

Police cannot detain you any longer than is necessary to accomplish the above without providing additional reasonable suspicion for the prolonged detention.