What Constitutes an Unlawful Stop?

cop writing ticket

What You Need to Know About Unlawful Police Stops in Phoenix

When can a law enforcement officer pull you over and when is it illegal? Many people are uncertain about their rights and become victims of unlawful stops. Knowles Law Firm, PLC is here to provide you with everything you need to know about traffic stops, police procedures, and arrests stemming from these stops. As a former police officer, Founding Attorney Anthony Knowles has unique insight into the tactics and strategies used by police officers, as well as the laws surrounding stops.

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Knowing Your Fourth Amendment Rights

Unlawful stops are traffic stops that violate a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment concerns our nation's search and seizure laws.

The Fourth Amendment is:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

A few things are important here:

  • Your person or effects cannot be unreasonably searched
  • Probable cause is necessary for a search to be lawful (ex: speeding, lights weren't on, outdated registration, etc.)
  • Arrests stemming from illegal searches cannot stand up in the court of law

In theory, this seems easy to understand, but applying it to specific situations can be complex. There is a lot of gray area that causes people to ask "Can the police officer do that?"

What a Police Officer Can and Cannot Do

  • A police officer cannot ask you to step outside of your vehicle to search your vehicle and/or conduct field sobriety tests on you unless they have probable cause.
  • A police officer can make you wait until drug dogs arrive at the scene if they have probable cause to believe you might have narcotics in your vehicle.
  • A police officer cannot make you roll down your window all the way at a stop. You have the legal right to simply crack your window, so long as you can still comply with the officer's requests (ex: handing over license and registration).
  • A police officer can tell you that refusal to submit to a field sobriety test could constitute an arrest, but they cannot threaten you into taking these tests.
  • A police officer cannot arrest you at a traffic stop unless you failed one or more field sobriety tests or refused to take them.

For answers to more specific questions on what police officers can and cannot lawfully do, contact Knowles Law Firm, PLC directly for an evaluation of your case.

The Constitutionality of DUI / Sobriety Checkpoints

The growing popularity of DUI checkpoints has caused many to question whether or not they are constitutional. With a regular traffic stop, an officer is only allowed to pull someone over if they witness a violation of criminal law or the vehicle code. With sobriety checkpoints, officers can pull over any vehicle that passes through their checkpoint. To keep these checkpoints constitutional and protect each individual's Fourth Amendment rights, all DUI checkpoints in Phoenix must abide by the following criteria:

  • The checkpoint was announced ahead of time
  • The checkpoint gained law enforcement approval through the appropriate measures
  • Officers at the checkpoint only stopped vehicles based on a predetermined pattern (ex: Every 3 rd vehicle)
  • The appropriate supervising law enforcement officers were at the checkpoint for the entirety of its duration

In most cases, charges that stem from traffic stops and checkpoints are DUI and drug-related. If you have been arrested after this type of stop, you may be able to get your charges dismissed or reduced on the grounds that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Discuss your potential unlawful stop case with a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer at Knowles Law Firm, PLC today!

Free consultations available at (888) 332-5621.

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