Reasonable Suspicion for a Traffic Stop
Because a traffic stop of a vehicle by a law enforcement officer is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, an officer must be aware of specific articulable facts, together with rational inferences from those facts, that reasonably warrant “reasonable suspicion” that the vehicle contains individuals involved in criminal activity or that a traffic infraction is being committed. In other words, a cop can’t just pull you over because she wants to - she has to have a lawful reason for pulling you over. For example, obviously a cop can pull you over for speeding but can she pull you over for weaving in your lane? The repeated weaving of a vehicle within its own lane may constitute sufficient reasonable suspicion for an officer to stop and investigate the driver of the vehicle. In that situation, the judge may find the stop was lawful or the judge may find there wasn’t reasonable suspicion and the stop was unlawful and as a result any evidence obtained as a result of that stop will be inadmissible in court. What if the cop thinks that you were speeding but, in fact, she was mistaken as to what the speed limit was on that stretch of road? In that situation, the stop is not lawful and any evidence obtained as a result of that stop will not be admissible in court and the prosecutor may be “forced” to dismiss the case.
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