What Are the Common Police Errors at a Traffic Stop?

On behalf of Eisenmenger, Robinson & Peters, P.A. posted in Car Accidents on Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

Flashing lights in your rearview mirror almost always leads to a traffic stop. Even if you weren’t doing anything wrong, you start to question yourself. You become nervous and unhinged. And that’s precisely what an unscrupulous officer is hoping for. 

Whether you were speeding (or not), violating traffic laws, or other infractions, there are many reasons why you might find yourself getting pulled over for a traffic stop. 

If you think there’s nothing you can do, think again. 

Believe it or not, officers will make critical errors that undermine the integrity of the interaction. In some cases, those errors could affect the outcome of your case if you’re found guilty of an offense.

If you pay attention to the details and understand your rights, the power is in your hands.

This handy article showcases some of the most common police errors that could occur, and how to recognize them. 

Why Does It Matter When Police Errors Occur at a Traffic Stop?

They say “to err is human.” But when that error comes from an officer of the law, your case might get dismissed!

Sometimes, a police officer will make a mistake during a traffic stop. Other times, the errors are more intentional in nature. Whether unintentional or deliberate abuse of power, keep your cool and keep your eyes open.

In either case, you could use their mistakes to challenge any evidence that the officer has against you. It could even help change the charges brought against you if they were made as a result of the mistake. 

Even the most routine traffic stop could lead to serious criminal charges. This is why it’s so important to analyze the details of the stop closely. If you notice any missteps or feel that something just isn’t right, hiring a lawyer from our team can help you worry less while we handle the details.  

Making an Illegal Stop

Any time a law enforcement officer stops you on the road, they must have a sufficient reason to do so. They cannot simply apprehend you on a hunch, or because they just want to stop and question you. 

Yet, it continues to happen. Officers will invent their own reasons for stopping you, assuming that you’ll be too stunned to question their motive. 

Not only is this an abuse of power, but it’s also illegal and it violates your rights as a driver. A police officer cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion, and they must be able to communicate that suspicion to you in a way you understand.

If they have no reason to believe that you are committing or have committed a crime, they cannot lawfully conduct a traffic stop. But is it really in your best interest to start a fight? No. Be respectful and direct. And never forget that the officer might have a legitimate reason to warrant a stop. 

For instance, an officer could technically pull you over for failing to use your turn signal or driving with a broken tail light, and use that as a conversation opener. Once they’ve stopped you, they can use that moment to inquire about any other suspicions they have. 

This is why it’s important to drive safely and defensively. If you know about those issues with your vehicle, get them taken care of. Because the reality is, if you can demonstrate that you weren’t violating any traffic laws, you can claim that the stop was unwarranted. 

Detaining You for an Unreasonably Long Time

With all those flashing lights, onlookers, and multiple squad cars, any amount of time at a traffic stop can feel like an eternity. Don’t forget: Keep an eye on the clock and take note of how long it takes for the officer to process the stop. 

Unless they have a valid reason to keep you there, they can only detain you for the amount of time it takes to write up your ticket. This is true whether you’re pulled over running a red light, speeding, or any other traffic violation. 

Often, officers will try to bide their time by requesting that a dog come to sniff your vehicle. They do this because they know it can take a while for the police force to collaborate with one another and get the K9 to the scene. They plan to use that downtime to question you further. 

If there isn’t just cause for the officer to prolong the stop, the detention could be deemed unreasonable.

Gathering the facts begins with you. Keep your eye on your dash clock!

Administering a Sobriety Test Incorrectly

There are strict rules that dictate how a police officer should conduct a sobriety test. If you’re pulled over for a DUI suspicion, you’ll likely assume they’re doing everything correctly. 

However, there’s a good chance they might not be. Officers must use specific language and follow a very detailed process any time they conduct a sobriety test on any driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) developed the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing program. This is included in the officer’s training, and they’re updated every time a new regulation is added or changed. Take a moment and glance at those details now. Be prepared if or when the time comes for you.

If you have evidence that they failed to comply with any of these rules when arresting you on DUI charges, it’s important to find legal representation immediately. Their errors could affect the validity and legality of your charge. 

Our award-winning criminal defense lawyer will sort through these details, determine if the officer acted inappropriately, and inform you of the appropriate next steps to take. 

We go the extra mile to make sure you understand all the details. It’s one of the things that sets us apart. 

Searching Your Vehicle Illegally

The only way a police officer can legally search your car during a traffic stop is with a search warrant in hand. However, they can perform a search without a warrant if certain circumstances occur. These include:

  • You give them permission to search your vehicle 
  • The officer visibly sees evidence of criminal activity in your vehicle
  • The officer has probable cause that further damage or wrongdoing is occurring in your vehicle 

Sometimes, these scenarios happen. When they do, the officer has the right to proceed with the search. However, more often than not, the search occurs without any type of just cause. 

Officers know that most drivers do not realize the limitations of their power. They’re intimidated by the officer’s presence and the potential charges they could face, so they willingly turn over their vehicle for examination. This puts you under undue suspicion and goes against your basic rights. 

Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Do you have a reason to believe that a police officer acted unjustly during a traffic stop? If you’re facing criminal charges, even the smallest detail can make a major difference.

Accountability is a two-way street. We’re not afraid to stand up for your rights. Why should you be scrutinized for your actions if the officer isn’t held liable for theirs? A misstep at any point in the process could change your case, but it’s important to proceed carefully and intentionally. 

That’s our specialty.

Reach out to our team of criminal defense attorneys today to discuss your case. We offer free consultations, professional expertise, and a track record of winning cases like yours in both state and federal courts. 

When you’re issued a citation at a traffic stop, the clock is ticking. Let’s stop the clock together and get to work on protecting your rights.