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Can a defendant challenge reasonable suspicion?

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2021 | Driving Offenses, Drug Charges

Drivers should not have to worry about the police stopping them for no reason, but instances exist where the police use dubious pretenses to pull over a vehicle. Such actions are more than frightening and inconvenient as they may lead to an illegal search and seizure. Without reasonable suspicion, a Pennsylvania traffic stop might violate the driver’s constitutional rights.

Reasonable suspicion and traffic stops

An officer may observe a driver traveling in an area known for high drug activity. If the vehicle has out-of-state plates and drives somewhat slowly, as if the driver is trying to identify a dealer, the police officer may think they have reasonable suspicion to make a stop. However, that reasonable suspicion may face challenges in court since the driver hadn’t committed any moving violations.

Reasonable suspicion requires the presence of other facts to validate a stop. Namely, the suspect has to appear engaged in wrongdoing. Pulling a vehicle over for no reason merely to harass the driver or fish for a crime would not likely reflect reasonable suspicion.

Legal defenses and reasonable suspicion

The courts could take a dim view of the behavior of police officers who have dubious reasons for initiating a traffic stop. A criminal defense strategy may address the lack of reasonable suspicion and seek to have evidence or statements suppressed.

If dashcam footage captures the defendant’s driving, the police stop and the subsequent arrest, the audio and video could suggest that no reasonable suspicion exists. A police officer’s story and a prosecutor’s case may collapse based on the dashcam’s revelation.

Drivers and passengers may wish to invoke their right to remain silent when dealing with law enforcement. Some people think they can talk their way out of an arrest only to make self-incriminating statements. If a police officer makes an improper seizure or arrest, it may be possible to get the charges dropped.