Did The Police Stop You For a Valid, Lawful Reason?


Interviewer:The police need a valid reason to pull you over in the first place, whether it is a traffic infraction or the belief you committed a crime. Is that correct?

Steve:Exactly, you hit the nail square on the head. In this particular case, it would have been better perhaps had she maybe stayed in the lane and proceeded south. She could have turned around on the freeway on another off ramp; and then come back.

I do not think she really needed to do that. The officer did not like that particular maneuver, and he used a vehicle code section that did not apply. So I think that is a really good issue.

Getting back to your question, in this day and age every police officer knows if you are going to pull somebody over, you just need a reason you can articulate.

Now, I would take that one step further. Not every single reason is going to pass constitutional muster. It needs to be constitutional. It needs to be reasonable by an objective, reasonable police officer standard.

Not only do you have to articulate a reason, but it needs to be reasonable. Sometimes courts and hearing officers do not always lump those two together. They should because that is a standard, reasonable, articulable suspicion.

If you violate a vehicle code section, even an equipment violation, it is good enough. These officers know that they just need to come up with a reason. They are all trained. They are trained and know as long as you have a reason, you can pull them over.

So these issues are very difficult. You cannot look at it in a vacuum. You have to look at the totality of the circumstances. What I try to do is outsmart them. I try to get into their minds. I try to go out to the field with the client. I do not just sit in my office.

A practical, common sense approach to lawyering is zealously representing a client. I went out with another perspective client in Sebastopol, in the North Bay. It is a small town, west of Santa Rosa.

Basically, the person told me the officer pulled him over for failing to stop at a stop sign. He told me, “Look, from the officer’s advantage, he would not have been able to see.” He said, “I stopped. Second of all, even if I did not, he could not see.”

So we went out and did a site inspection. I put the client in my car and we did a test drive. We basically did a re-creation of the driving conduct which led to the stop.

Lo and behold, he pointed out the location where the police officer was stationed with his patrol vehicle. He pointed out the stop sign he failed to stop at. It appeared there were bushes blocking the intersection.

You lump that with the witching hour, which is about two in the morning. It was right after the bars closed. He had been at a bar, and he was with some people outside the bar.

The police actually congregate outside the bar. There is reason to believe that perhaps he might have stopped at that stop sign. However, he got pegged outside the bar during witching hour.

This stuff is fascinating. I need to say I eat, breathe, and live this just about 24/7. The issues become very fascinating and that is how you analyze it. You analyze the stop.

You look at the stop. You look at the reason for the stop. If you can argue and convince that it was a bad stop, what ends up happening is the license suspension gets set aside.

The suspension never goes into effect. There is no administrative suspension, and that is good. It is very positive for insurance reasons; and practical reasons to support your family, your livelihood, and everything else.

By Steven Taxman

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