Being stopped for a motor vehicle violation is probably the most common interaction people in Arizona will have with police. Citizens who are otherwise law abiding individuals will most often be stopped for common violations such as speeding, running a stop sign or failing to stop for a red light or use a turn signal. Most often these contacts with the police do not last very long and end once a warning or citation is issued. However, in some circumstances, the police will extend the traffic stop and try to investigate alleged criminal activity such as the possession or sale of illegal drugs.
Once a person is pulled over by police for a traffic violation, they are determined to have been "seized" for purposes of the United States Constitution. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures by police and generally requires a warrant before a person, their home or possessions may be searched.
Unless a police officer has "reasonable suspicion" that an individual in engaged in some type of criminal activity, the officer cannot extend the traffic stop beyond what is necessary to complete the tasks related to enforcement of the State's motor vehicle laws. That is either issuing a citation, warning or possibly even a verbal reprimand. "Reasonable Suspicion" of criminal activity is based on an objective standard of all the facts and circumstances an officers is aware of while addressing the motor vehicle violation. These might include odors of marijuana, inconsistent responses to questions asked by the officer, unusual movements by the driver or passengers, or items the officer notices within plain view inside the car. If an officer cannot reasonably show that he was suspicious of criminal activity, he cannot extend the motor vehicle stop at all to try and get consent to search the car, await for the arrival of a police dog, etc.
Recently, the courts also extended the protection to passengers in a car stopped by police for a motor vehicle violation. In a recent case, a car was stopped by police who then requested that a passenger identify themselves. When the passenger refused to provide his name, police concluded that the passenger was violating a lawful order and subsequently detained them, searched their person and the vehicle they occupied. Evidence obtained by the police during their search of the car was suppressed because the court determined that the passengers had no duty to identify themselves and their refusal to give their names to police did not indicate they were involved in criminal activity. Consequently, police had no legitimate basis to extend the traffic stop beyond issuing a citation to the driver.
Police searches of automobiles following a routine traffic stop are often conducted to investigate the possession, use or sale of illegal drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. It is very important to be aware of your constitutional rights concerning police practices and traffic stops. Moreover, if you are arrested after being stopped for a simple traffic violation, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can recognize and successfully argue issues which can help defend your case.
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If you have been charged with a felony, misdemeanor or DUI offense in Tempe, Phoenix, or any other city within Maricopa or Pinal County, it is vital that you contact a highly skilled criminal lawyer immediately. Tempe Criminal Defense lawyer Raymond Kimble will recognize available defenses and has been defending people for many years. Mr. Kimble knows how to prepare a solid defense, challenge the prosecution's evidence and negotiate a reduction or dismissal of the charges
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