If the police pull you over, one of the first things you should ask yourself is if they had a reason to do it. If not, it may be an illegal stop — even if you were breaking the law.
The reason for this is that probable cause is needed for traffic stops. They cannot be random. Even when a search turns up some sort of illegal activity, if the stop itself happened before the police had any reason to suspect it, then they have violated your rights.
One example: Drunk driving outside of a bar
For instance, imagine that you go to a bar with your friends. When it’s time for everyone to head home, you go out to the parking lot and get in your car. As you pull onto the road, a police officer pulls you over.
Forget for a moment if you’re actually over the legal limit for drunk driving. The officer doesn’t know that yet. They know you came out of a bar, but, for all they know, you were just drinking water with your friends. They can’t assume you’re intoxicated and pull you over based on that assumption.
Instead, they must have a solid reason for a traffic stop in advance. Maybe they saw you swerve into the oncoming lanes as you pulled onto the road. Maybe you forgot to turn on your headlights. These are viable reasons to stop a driver, and then the police may determine that you are over the limit. That’s legal.
What’s illegal is conducting random stops simply to look for illegal activity. There is a specific order of operations that must be followed, and an officer who breaks this may have his or her evidence thrown out of court.
Fighting for your rights
It’s frustrating to feel like the police violated your rights and made assumptions about you prior to an arrest. If this happens, though, the key is simply to look into all of the legal options you have. In court, these types of mistakes by the police can actually be very helpful for you.