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Pretextual stops and illegal searches

On Behalf of | Sep 5, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The police could stop a vehicle for several reasons, including minor traffic law violations. For example, a car traveling on a South Carolina road might have a broken brake light. The police could pull over the vehicle over the safety issue. During the stop, the police may arrest the driver for a crime unrelated to the initial traffic violations. In some instances, defendants might question the legality of the traffic stop.

Pretextual traffic stops

A pretextual traffic stop could lead to someone facing criminal charges, including felonies. Sometimes, the events play out unexpectedly. A police officer might stop a car for making an illegal turn on red and uncover drugs or firearms, resulting in a felony arrest. Sometimes, the police officer may look for a reason to stop a vehicle. There could be scenarios where the police make false claims about minor traffic violations, such as saying a vehicle did not come to a complete stop at a stop sign when it did.

If the routine stop turns chaotic, pretextual stops may result in additional charges, such as resisting arrest. Suspects could lose their lives if the confrontation with police turns deadly.

Legal concerns over pretextual arrests

As part of a criminal defense, questions may arise about the legality of a traffic stop. The police must have probable cause to stop a vehicle. Stopping a vehicle without probable cause could result in any evidence procured during the traffic stop being inadmissible.

If the defense files a motion to suppress evidence and the judge rules in the defense’s favor, the prosecution might no longer have a case. Other violations of rights could be pointed out if they occurred.