Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Can Law Enforcement Pull You Over for No Reason?

Law enforcement officers in Brockton were recently driving behind a vehicle when they suspected that the car windows were tinted darker than what was allowed by law. They also noticed that the vehicle lacked a front license plate. Law enforcement then became suspicious due to the driver’s peculiar movement. 

This resulted in the driver being arrested after a loaded and stolen firearm was discovered under one of the vehicle’s car seats. The driver was subsequently charged with possession of a firearm without an FID card, possession of ammunition without an FID card, improper storage of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, receiving stolen property over $1,200, having a window obstructed, and a license plate violation. 

A law enforcement officer’s decision to pull you over represents a detention. While you are not free to leave, you also have not been arrested. To perform this type of detention, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you were committing a violation. 

In the case above, the violation that amounted to reasonable suspicion was that the driver’s car had windows that were tinted to an illegal degree. The purpose of requiring reasonable suspicion to stop a motorist is that this prevents law enforcement from stopping a person on a whim. 

How the Supreme Court Influenced this Area of Law

In the case of Delaware v. Prouse, the Supreme Court considered the arguments of a man prosecuted for marijuana possession. During a traffic stop, law enforcement spotted marijuana on the floor of the man’s vehicle. Law enforcement argued that defendant had not been seen committing any traffic violations. There were also not any equipment violations involving defendant’s vehicle. 

Instead, law enforcement had only made the stop to examine the driver’s license as well as to inspect the vehicle’s registration. The Supreme Court consequently held that this type of stop was unconstitutional. 

Be Wary of Evidence Seized During Stops

There are a number of tactics that the Supreme Court of the United States has found are permissible for law enforcement to employ  to obtain evidence against a person. There are also rules that restrict the way in which law enforcement can obtain this evidence. 

For example, the exclusionary rule requires that evidence obtained during an unlawful arrest or detention be excluded from a court of law. The United States Supreme Court, however, has held that law enforcement officers who learn about arrest warrants only after having made a stop can use this knowledge to justify an illegal detention. 

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Being suddenly stopped by law enforcement can be frightening, particularly when you were in the commission of a criminal offense or have something illegal on you. During these times, however, it is important to remember that you have rights. It is also important to remember that law enforcement must follow restrictions regarding how evidence must be handled. 

If you have been arrested following a vehicle stop, contact criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free initial consultation.