Standard of Proof for a Traffic Stop | Newport Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

October 28, 2015

Contrary to popular belief, a police officer does not need “probable cause” to legally conduct a traffic detention. This misconception is often misunderstood by non-lawyers as well as practicing attorneys. Instead, the standard of proof required for a police officer to legally pull your vehicle over is “reasonable suspicion”. An officer is permitted to pull your vehicle over if they reasonably believe that criminal activity is afoot. Criminal activity can be a felony, misdemeanor, or even a simple traffic infraction. This low standard is often challenging to contest in court because the standard does not require a crime to be actually occurring but rather whether the police officer “reasonably believes that a crime has occurred.” In other words, the police officer’s mistaken belief of the law could be reasonable to detain you even if you were obeying the traffic laws. As stated above, the legal issue is whether the police officer had a reasonable belief.

If you’re subsequently arrested for a crime after the traffic stop, your attorney will carefully review the reason / justification for the initial traffic stop. Because a traffic stop is a “seizure” triggering justification under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you may be able to get your criminal case dismissed completely if it’s subsequently determined the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over in the first place. This is common among DUI stops or searches yielding narcotics in your vehicle. If the police officer did not legally pull you over, then your DUI case or drug case will likely be dismissed as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation.

To schedule a consultation, contact an Newport Beach Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Call (949) 625-4487 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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