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When might a traffic stop be unlawful?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Police officers utilize traffic stops not only for traffic offenses, but all sorts of criminal activities. Traffic stops allow officers to assess the situation, interview drivers and passengers, and to potentially obtain evidence of criminal conduct. 

Nonetheless, police officers are not permitted to stop vehicles at random. Generally, there must be a valid reason for the traffic stop, which is commonly referred to as reasonable suspicion. If a car is pulled over without reasonable suspicion, then the stop could be unlawful. 

What are some examples of unlawful traffic stops

Fishing expeditions 

As mentioned, law enforcement must have a reasonable suspicion of illegality before stopping a vehicle. While officers can be proactive, they cannot cross the line and enter into fishing expeditions. In essence, a fishing expedition is pulling vehicles over in the hope that some form of illegality will be found. 

As with most employees, police officers have targets. They are expected to conduct a certain number of traffic stops and make a dent in crime. Unlawful stops may be logged and offered as evidence that officers are satisfying targets. 

Prejudicial stops 

Police officers are also not legally permitted to act in a prejudicial manner. They must not conduct traffic stops based on a person’s protected characteristics. For instance, they should not target someone just because they are of a certain skin color or ethnicity. 

If you are facing charges after a traffic stop, and you believe the stop was unlawful, then this could form part of your criminal defense strategy. Seeking legal guidance will give you a further indication of your options.