When a police officer pulls you over, you are probably focused on whether you will get a ticket — or worse, arrested on a charge like DUI. The thought that the officer has pulled you over illegally probably would not cross your mind.
But it is possible. The police have rules they must follow while patrolling for suspected impaired drivers. If an officer breaks the rules when they turn on their lights and sirens behind your vehicle, the court may have no choice but to throw out any resulting criminal charges against you.
Before a police officer can pull over a vehicle on a public road, they must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that someone inside the vehicle is committing a crime. The officer must be able to explain later that they reasonably believed a crime was taking place. For example, they could have observed the driver speeding, failing to maintain their lane or otherwise showing signs the driver was impaired.
Random searches forbidden
In other words, no officer can pull over drivers at random or for disallowed reasons like the driver’s race or the color of their car. While there is not much you can do about what the police do to you in the street, you and your defense attorney can fight back against an unconstitutional traffic stop. If you can show that the officer who initiated the stop lacked a reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed, any evidence seized during the stop could be thrown out of court as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This legal principle prohibits (with several exceptions) the use of illegally obtained evidence against a criminal defendant.