United States laws protect against police harassment and illegal vehicle stops without a valid reason. When people are facing criminal charges after an illegal stop, any evidence obtained during the stop may be able to be thrown out of court.
A Violation of Legal Rights
Under the United States Constitution, people are protected from unlawful interference by federal, state, and local law enforcement. Police officers must have reasonable suspicion or cause that a driver is doing something illegal to initiate a roadside police stop.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has established laws on police stops. These laws state that a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, or is in process, to perform a roadside police stop. If a police officer pulls a driver over, he or she is required to explain the stop and state-specific facts that support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by the driver of the vehicle or passengers in the vehicle. Police officers are not permitted to stop a vehicle based on invalid reasons or information that can’t be verified that vehicle occupants are involved in some sort of criminal activity. However, even minor traffic violations support a reasonable suspicion of a crime and a lawful stop of a vehicle because traffic violations are illegal in all states.
Since a police stop constitutes a “seizure,” the Fourth Amendment applies. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. When a police officer does not have reasonable suspicion of a crime, the police stop is considered to be unconstitutional. Minneapolis criminal lawyers often see drivers who are pulled over for questioning, then their vehicle is searched without reasonable explanation or cause.
Common Reasons for Illegal Stops
In Minnesota, Minneapolis criminal lawyers see a variety of reasons for illegal police stops. Drivers who are pulled over often do not know or understand their legal rights, so they comply with the police officer’s demands not realizing that certain rights are protected under the law. Common reasons for illegal police stops include the following:
No Reasonable Cause
Reasonable cause means reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, or is being committed by a driver or passengers in a vehicle. Police officers must have a valid reason for making a police stop, and that reason must be clearly articulated to people in the vehicle. If officers do not follow this important protocol, legal rights are violated under Fourth Amendment Rights.
Hunches and Feelings
Due to job training and law enforcement experience, many police offers rely heavily on hunches and feelings when they encounter dangerous situations that may include criminal activity. Although these hunches may protect officers from physical harm, hunches and feelings are not considered reasonable cause under the law for a legal police stop.
Gender or Race
Police officers are not permitted to stop a driver based on his or her gender or race. In certain areas of the city, Minneapolis criminal lawyers see a disproportionate number of police stops based on gender and race, which constitutes prejudice and racial profiling. Stops based on such circumstances can lead to legal action in a Minnesota court against a police officer.
A person with a known criminal history can be unfairly targeted by police officers. If officers suspect criminal behavior and run the license plate of a suspicious vehicle, they are not permitted to stop the vehicle based solely on the prior criminal history of the vehicle’s driver or owner, unless the driver or vehicle owner is on parole or probation.
When a vehicle is stopped by police officers, the driver and vehicle occupants can only be detained for a certain amount of time. Police officers are not permitted to go on fishing expeditions based on reasons that are not related to the roadside stop. However, if a police stop reveals drugs in the vehicle, officers are allowed to investigate further by searching the vehicle. If drugs found in the car lead to an arrest, criminal lawyers can provide necessary defense for drug charges.
Anonymous tips are common in law enforcement, but they do not constitute reasonable cause for a police stop unless the information provided can be verified and comes from a credible source. For police officers to act on anonymous tips, such tips must provide more than a personal identification of a suspect and unfounded accusations.
Creating police incentives to make more police stops is illegal because it can lead to inappropriate motivation for police officers and bias based on a person’s profile and history. Incentive programs that offer days off, extra vacation days, job bonuses, and financial rewards for making roadside police stops are prohibited under the law.