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Issues with pretextual traffic stops

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

A routine traffic stop on New Jersey Road could lead to an arrest. Although the police might have pulled a vehicle over for a minor traffic violation, discovering evidence of a crime may result in an arrest. However, these pretextual stops are not always legal. Questions may arise in court about whether the police had the right to stop a vehicle and perform a search.

Pretextual stops and worrisome issues

While many violent offenders may face arrest after making a mistake while driving, there are incidents where the police overstep their bounds. And yes, even if the suspect is guilty of a particular crime, the individual still has constitutional rights, including those afforded under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against illegal searches and seizures, although violations of these rights occur.

For example, a driver might not come to a complete stop at a stop sign, and the police may pull the vehicle over to issue a citation. An officer could claim to smell marijuana, leading to a search of the vehicle that uncovers a substantial quantity of drugs. Yet, the officer’s partners could later testify they did not smell marijuana, raising questions about whether the other officer was truthful. The search could be illegal if the officer lied about the probable cause to search the vehicle.

Defending the charges

There are several things a criminal defense might raise about an improper traffic stop. Returning to the previous example, if dash cam footage shows a driver did come to a complete stop at a stop sign, the police might not have probable cause to stop the vehicle. Without probable cause, the search could be illegal.

When it appears evidence was obtained illegally, the defense may file a motion to suppress the evidence. If the court rules in the motion’s favor, the prosecutor’s case might falter. Without evidence, a conviction may be unlikely.