When Can the Police Pull You Over for a Traffic Stop?
When the police pull you over for a traffic stop, it’s considered a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment to United States Constitution. Everyone in the car is “seized” for the duration of the traffic stop. The seizure begins when your vehicle is pulled over and ends when the police have no further need to control the scene and inform you that you are free to leave.
During the traffic stop, the police cannot violate your Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in [your] person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” Thus, to be Constitutional, the traffic stop must be reasonable.
To be reasonable, before pulling you over the police officer must have a reason to suspect that you have violated a motor vehicle or traffic law. For instance, it is lawful for the police to pull you over for a traffic stop if the officer observes you speed or run a red light or if a check of your license plate reveals that your registration is suspended with the MVA.
Note, however, that the police cannot randomly pull you over. Valid exceptions are roadblocks to check for drunk drivers or to check the citizenship of the occupants of every car that passes through the checkpoint. The Supreme Court has held these types of random traffic stops to be Constitutional.
If you've been pulled over by the police and think your Constitutional rights have been violated, call us for a FREE consultation.