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Traffic stop spotlights key element of reasonable suspicion

We get straight to the point on our criminal defense website at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry concerning one key point that is centrally relevant to police conduct in every traffic stop.

That point is reasonable suspicion (probable cause) that must be present in order for a police officer to make a stop and continue to subject a citizen to further inquiry or search in a lawful detention.

We pose these questions on our site: "Did law enforcement officers have permission to search your vehicle, home or person? If not, did they have a search warrant?"

If the answer to those questions is "no," a court will in virtually every instance exclude as inadmissible any evidence seized that incriminates an individual accused of a crime.

Vehicle stops often involve alleged drunk driving or unlawful drug possession (sometimes both), and issues surrounding probable cause are often critically important to the outcome of case.

Again, an officer must have a reasonable basis for initially stopping a vehicle. And his or her further searching -- posing questions, looking for physical elements of crime and so forth -- must be tied to some rational basis that criminal conduct has occurred or is ongoing.

We believe that one case from Pennsylvania will be interesting and relevant to many of our readers in Missouri and elsewhere. That matter involved a police trooper pulling alongside a driver who had already stopped her car to enter GPS information. The motorist stated she did not need help.

For the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that meant that any further questioning by the officer was pursuant to a stop and not a voluntary exchange from the driver's perspective. Using a GPS system, stated justices, did not supply the officer with any cause whatever to suspect wrongdoing by the motorist. As a result, the court threw out blood-alcohol evidence indicating that the driver was inebriated.

An article discussing the stop noted the court's view that the officer "had no business subjecting a citizen stopped on the roadside to an extensive interrogation."

Questions or concerns regarding any aspect of a police stop and subsequent search for incriminating evidence can be directed to a proven defense attorney.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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