An unlawful traffic stop occurs when police stop someone who is traveling on a public road or highway for no legitimate reason. A traffic stop is considered a seizure and has Fourth Amendment protection. Law enforcement may not stop a vehicle unless they have probable cause to believe a traffic violation has taken place.
What this means is, if law enforcement unlawfully stops a vehicle and later searches that vehicle, all of the evidence found during that illegal stop might be suppressed if the stop was a violation of the driver's constitutional rights .
If law enforcement had a valid reason to stop you for a legitimate traffic violation, the stop is legal. For instance, if a police officer is driving behind someone who is operating their vehicle erratically, swerving, or demonstrating other dangerous behavior, that would give them reasonable cause to pull that driver over.
However, If there was no valid reason to stop your vehicle, then your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated. Police use the roads and highways to investigate crimes all the time. They stop people for DUIs, they stop people on the interstate for drug trafficking crimes. The roads are a common setting for search and seizures, as searching a vehicle can occasionally fall outside of the search warrant requirement.
However, these stops must follow the same rules as standard search and seizures in that they require probable cause that a traffic violation occurred. . Essentially, a vehicle search is not lawful if the initial stop was not lawful. The stop and search are not independent of one another. If the search is determined to be unlawful, any information or evidence obtained during the search is not admissible in a court of law. That means a jury of your peers is not able to hold evidence against you that was not obtained legally.
If you suspect that your vehicle was stopped and/or search unlawfully, you have the right to fight the actions of police in court. When your constitutional rights are violated and your freedom and future are at risk you have the right to the protection of a criminal defense lawyer.
If you’re searching for legal counsel because you suspect that a law enforcement officer unlawfully searched your vehicle, contact the attorneys at Berry Law Firm. We'll hold law enforcement to the standard and protect your constitutional rights.