Automobile Stops

Generally, police may not stop a car unless they have at least reasonable suspicion to believe that a law has been violated.  Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard that requires specific facts taken together with rational inferences from those facts.  For instance, a police officer may stop a vehicle on reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk based on his observation that the vehicle is swerving all over the road.  If the police actually witness the driver committing a traffic violation, then there is reasonable suspicion to stop the driver.  Also, if the police believe the driver has violated a traffic law, they may stop the driver even if their motive is to really investigate whether some other law, which the police lacked reasonable suspicion for, has been violated.

On the other hand, the police may set up roadblocks to stop cars without individualized suspicion that the driver violated some law. To be valid, the roadblock must stop cars on the basis of some neutral standard, (every car), and must be designed to serve purposes related to a particular problem pertaining to automobiles and their mobility.  For example, the police could set a roadblock for the purpose of finding drunk drivers since drunk driving is pervasive problem.

If the police stop an automobile on reasonable suspicion, the stop constitutes a seizure of not only the automobile’s driver but also any of the passengers as well.  At this point, after the police have lawfully stopped the vehicle, the police may order the occupants of the vehicle to get out of the vehicle. In addition, if the police reasonably believe any of the occupants of the vehicle may be armed, they may frisk the occupants and search the passenger compartment for weapons. The police are also entitled to take property from the vehicle. However, the police must only do so based on reasonable suspicion.

The police have a limited time to detain the driver and/or occupants of the vehicle. The detention can last no longer than the amount of time needed to verify the suspicion.  If the driver and/or occupants refuse to cooperate with the police, then they may be arrested.

The police must be able to show the traffic stop was based on specific and articuable facts; the facts must support a showing that a traffic law has been violated. If you think the police stopped you or someone you know without reasonable suspicion, then Daniel Selwa may be able to help. Also, if you or someone you know was a passenger in the vehicle and lost personal property in the search, then let Daniel Selwa defend you. Passengers have standing to raise a wrongful stop as a reason to exclude evidence found during the stop.

Police are given the power to protect us but sometimes the police abuse their power. Daniel Selwa will fight to make sure you and your rights are protected.

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