Before a police officer may stop a motorist, the officer must have "reasonable
suspicion" of unlawful conduct. In 1979, the United States Supreme
Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits an officer from stopping
an automobile and detaining the driver just to perform a license or registration
check. There must be at least an articulable and reasonable suspicion
that the motorist was unlicensed, that the automobile was not registered,
or that the vehicle or an occupant was subject to seizure for violating
the law. Note that the officer does not have to have "probable cause"
to stop a motorist.
The probable cause standard determines the legality of an arrest—not
a traffic stop. A key issue is always whether the police officer personally
observed the alleged violation. The types of conduct that may give an
officer reasonable suspicion of a
DUI violation vary greatly. Reasonable minds may differ about what is "reasonable."
An Orange County DUI defense attorney can give you the best advice about
your particular situation and help you argue that your stop wasn't
Defense attorneys and police have the same problem trying to determine
whether there was "reasonable suspicion" in any particular situation.
An officer in the field has to assess the situation quickly and in the
moment, while a lawyer has time to sit back and analyze all the facts.
A good attorney will acknowledge to the court the police officer's
good faith efforts but note that the Constitution must still prevail.
The officer's good faith--but incorrect--belief does not excuse an
illegal traffic stop.
For advice about whether a police officer stopped you illegally, the legal
help of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is essential.
The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs may be able to help. Fill out an
online case evaluation form to schedule a free initial consultation.