When Cops Can and Can’t Pull You OverThere is a massive amount of confusion on the topic of when a police officer can and cannot pull you over.  The enforcement of some traffic laws are really at the personal discretion of each individual officer and, good or bad, traffic stops tend to be the most contact society has with its law enforcement agents.

So when can a cop pull you over?  The answer is when they feel that you’ve done something wrong.  To clarify, it could be anything from a broken taillight to not using a turn signal, speeding, or running a red light.  Sometimes if police can justify pulling you over if they have obtained information or a tip regarding certain vehicle or personal characteristics that were involved in a crime—even if they haven’t seen you do anything wrong in front of them.

For example if they are looking for a criminal suspect who is a middle-aged, bearded white male wearing a tee-shirt and a baseball hat, they have the right to stop anyone matching that description.  This refers to “reasonable suspicion”, which is based off a collection of facts.  If an officer saw you swerving, they could pull you over to check if you’re intoxicated.

Ultimately, this means that the police need to have a reason to pull you over.  Simply because you might be a young black male driving a BMW does not give them enough reason to pull you over.  These rules stem from our 4th Amendment right that protects us from unreasonable search and seizures.   But obviously that doesn’t mean that the police never pull people over without reasonable suspicion.  A Google search of unlawful traffic stop cases yields dozens of results for just this.  But don’t worry—that’s why I’m here.

Whether or not the police have a sound reason for pulling you over, the key factor is to be as polite and calm as possible.  Be as cooperative as you can without talking to the officer(s) more than you have to.  Afterwards, try write down as much of the encounter that you can remember then give me  call me, attorney Leon Matchin at 732-662-7658 or 877-390-2998 to discuss what I can do for you.