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Challenging the Legality of the Traffic Stop

 

 

Note if an officer stopped you without a reason and talk to a DC DUI lawyer. Your driving under the influence charges may be contested if there was no reasonable suspicion for a stop.

DC Routine Traffic Stop Laws

 

DC Traffic Law requires all drivers to pull over when stopped by police. Police officers may pull you over for violating traffic laws or for reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law.

The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable seizures and searches by law enforcement officers. Therefore, it is illegal for an officer to pull you over without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

Officers can stop you if they have a search warrant, reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, or probable cause to conduct an arrest. They may also stop you if you violate D.C. traffic laws.

 

What is an Unlawful Stop?

 

Law enforcement officers may take advantage of their ability to conduct D.C. traffic stops and violate your rights by conducting unreasonable searches without probable cause.

They should not pull you over because of mere suspicion or hunches that do not meet the standard of reasonable suspicion. For instance, driving an expensive vehicle in a particular area of town is not a justification for pulling you over unless there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest.

If a police officer has no probable cause for searching your vehicle, then the traffic stop is unlawful. Police officers should not search you solely because of the following reasons:

  • Race or identity
  • Vehicle profiling
  • Pretextual stops
  • Anonymous tips
  • Being present in a high-drug area
  • Baiting

However, in Whren v. U.S., the United States Supreme Court held that pretextual stops could be considered legal if the traffic stop was lawful and the officer had reasonable suspicion.

If you were stopped by law enforcement officers who did not provide a reason for the stop, consider contacting a D.C. traffic lawyer as soon as possible. A lack of reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop could be used to argue against any DUI charges the officers may file against you.

How Police Officers Justify Traffic Stops

 

If a D.C. police officer observes erratic driving or other indications that signal impaired driving, they may pull you over. An officer may initially stop you for a traffic violation because they have observed the following:

  • Speeding

  • Driving below the speed limit

  • Failing to follow a traffic signal

  • Swerving

  • Dark-tinted windows

  • Broken headlights

  • Struggling to control a vehicle

  • Turning too wide

  • Hitting an object

  • Driving the wrong way

 

What to Expect During Routine Traffic Stops

 

It is unlawful for a law enforcement officer to detain you for a long period without a valid reason. However, if the officer suspects a crime, they may do the following:

  • Ask you to step out of your vehicle

  • Request your driver’s license and proof of registration

  • Search for any outstanding warrants

  • Observe all the vehicle’s visible areas, like the floorboards, dashboards, and seats

  • Ask if they can search the non-visible areas of the vehicle

  • Inquire if you are on medications or drugs

  • Ask if you have consumed any alcoholic substance

The answers you provide, your demeanor when responding, and the police officer’s observations will be used to establish probable cause for their suspicion. Further, any information or physical evidence found by the officer during the traffic stop will be admissible in court.

How to Protect Yourself During an Unlawful Traffic Stop

 

Law enforcement officers look out for individuals who commit the most blatant violations. Therefore, you can avoid a traffic stop by becoming more mindful of traffic laws and obeying traffic signals.

Nevertheless, if you are stopped for questioning by the police, stay calm and do the following:

  • Pull over to the side once it is safe to do so

  • Turn off your engine and any audio devices so you can hear the officer clearly

  • Remain in your vehicle unless the officer says otherwise

  • Turn on your interior lights if pulled over at night to assist with visibility

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel or where the officer can see them

  • Always have your documents in an accessible location

  • Wait for instructions before you reach for your license or vehicle documents

  • Do not admit to committing any crime

  • Ask the officer to turn on his body cam

  • Turn on your dash cam if you have any on your vehicle

  • Remember that an officer can look into your vehicle from the exterior without conducting a search

  • Write down the officer’s name and badge number if your rights are violated

Remember that you don’t have to consent to a car search (unless there’s a warrant), answer all the questions, or present documents other than your license and registration (e.g., immigration documents).

Challenging a D.C. Traffic Stop With the Help of Scrofano Law Attorneys

 

Evidence presented by a police officer from a traffic stop without probable cause for a search could be excluded. This is because an unlawful search violates your fourth amendment rights. An experienced D.C. traffic lawyer can prove that the stop was unconstitutional and get your case dismissed.

If you were stopped for violating a traffic law, such as speeding, the officer would usually issue you a ticket or warning and allow you to leave. However, it is unlawful for a police officer to begin searching your vehicle without visible suspicion of evidence (e.g., empty alcohol bottles or slurred speech) that gives them probable cause.

Unlawful traffic stops may provide grounds for dismissing key evidence and the entire case against you. The Scrofano Law P.C. legal team can examine all your case details to determine your potential defenses.

If you were pulled over for DUI and went through the typical D.C. DUI stop process, including Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (S.F.S.T.s), the prosecution may have enough evidence for a judge to convict you with DUI.

We can contest the illegality of the stop and file a motion to block any evidence obtained by the police officer. In addition, our lawyers can represent you in court, present expert witnesses and mitigate on your behalf.

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