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Police Officers

Can the Police Pull me Over for no Reason?

By November 4, 2019September 25th, 2023No Comments

Countless people have been unjustly pulled over by police for no reason.  In some situations, the police officer’s reasoning for pulling over a driver is questionable at best.  The question begs: are police officers allowed to pull over drivers without sufficient reason? The answer is more complicated than most think.

Probable Cause 

Police officers must have reasonable suspicion of a crime to pull over a driver or anyone else.  It is illegal for police officers to pull over drivers without probable cause. There must be a reasonable suspicion the driver in question has committed an offense.  However, sobriety checkpoints are perfectly legal. Though police officers are not actually pulling over drivers during sobriety checkpoints, they can legally mandate drivers come to a complete stop to ensure vehicle operators are not drunk, high or otherwise inebriated.  

The Issue of Evidence After a Pullover 

If a police officer pulls you over without probable cause, do not consent to a search of your vehicle.  It is possible the police officer will see evidence of a crime such as a bag of marijuana or something else that is illegal in plain view.  In most situations, such evidence cannot be used against you in a court of law if there was insufficient cause for the traffic stop. Consent to the police officer’s request to search your vehicle and it will be that much easier to make the case against you for supposed illegal activity.  If you provide the police officer with consent to search your person or your vehicle, there is a good chance the police officer will be able to use anything he or she finds against you as evidence in a court of law.

Suspicious Behavior

Oftentimes, police officers will argue they have reasonable suspicion of a crime to pull over a driver.  Even something as subtle as slight swerving or supposed erratic driving is enough to justify a stop in the eyes of the typical police officer.  However, some such drivers are not actually drunk or high. Oftentimes, drivers who swerve are reaching for a dropped cell phone, loose change or attempting to control a rowdy child.  Though a police officer cannot ticket such a driver for DUI, he or she can issue a ticket for driving in an irresponsible manner and endangering others on the road.  

Police officers are also empowered to pull over those who resemble criminal suspects.  If you or your vehicle resemble a supposed criminal or a vehicle used in a crime, the police officer can legally pull you over.  The logic in allowing police officers to act this way is it is in the general public’s interest for police officers to be on the lookout for drivers and automobiles that match the descriptions of those involved in crimes.  In fact, police officers can even detain such individuals and complete an investigatory search if there is reasonable suspicion he or she committed a crime.

What to do After an Illegal Stop

If you feel as though you were illegally pulled over by a police officer, do not suffer in silence.  An illegal stop should be contested by an experienced attorney.  Furthermore, if an illegal search occurred that revealed drugs or something else illegal, it is in your interest to retain the services of an attorney as soon as possible.  If criminal charges are pressed, your attorney will file a motion to suppress. This is an opportunity to present evidence that proves you did not consent to the interaction with the police officer and the subsequent search was illegal.  Once the evidence is suppressed, the charge(s) will likely be dismissed. Furthermore, your attorney will explore whether there is the potential for remedies for civil rights violations that occurred during the illegal stop.  

Legal Assistance is a Call Away

If you have been illegally pulled over and/or searched without probable cause, you should know help is available.  Reach out to our legal team today to schedule an initial consultation. We will review the facts of your case and determine the best legal strategy for your particular case.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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