The police in any jurisdiction, whether they are state or local officers, have a great deal of authority when it comes to enforcing the laws. A significant part of police duties includes enforcing traffic laws and stopping drivers who are breaking these rules. While the police must conduct these stops to prevent dangerous drivers from hurting themselves or others, their power to make these stops is limited.
Without any real cause to make a traffic stop, the police cannot pull you over. Requiring the police to have cause to make a stop simply means there must be a real, valid reason for the stop. This rule prevents the police from making arbitrary stops based on unfair reasons like a driver’s race or ethnicity. However, some stops, such as DWI checkpoints, occur under different rules and do not require a cause for the stop. Other times, the cause for a traffic stop may be pretextual for the police to do something like searching your vehicle. If a stop is unlawful, you should speak with a lawyer right away.
If the police stopped you with no cause, or you believe the cause was an invalid or arbitrary reason, speak with a lawyer as soon as you can. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can review your case and defend you if your traffic stop was unlawful. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free legal consultation.
Reasons Police Can Pull You Over in New Jersey
When conducting a traffic stop, the police must have a cause for the stop. Stops cannot be arbitrary. The police cannot stop vehicles because they do not like the look for the driver or because they have some sort of hunch that the driver is doing something illegal.
A good cause for a stop would be a traffic violation or something wrong with your car, like a broken taillight. The police can also stop you if you are driving dangerously or recklessly. They may even stop you for driving that is not necessarily illegal but seems unusual. Such driving may be indicative of an intoxicated driver.
Generally, stops that are invalid are illegal, and any criminal charges from such a stop likely will not be upheld. The same goes for vehicle searches. If the police stop you for an unlawful reason or no reason at all, and they find contraband like drugs or weapons in your car, they cannot use that evidence against you. If the police stopped you and you think there was no just cause for your stop, call our New Jersey DWI defense lawyers for assistance.
Being Stopped Without Cause by the Police in New Jersey
Most of the time, the police must have a valid reason to pull you over. However, it is possible to be stopped without any cause, but only under specific conditions. Stops without cause are most commonly associated with DWI checkpoints. Generally, DWI checkpoints do not require any probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Checkpoints involve systematically stopping any vehicle that passes through. These stops often follow pre-determined patterns to ensure fairness and prevent arbitrary enforcement. For example, the police will usually stop every third vehicle or every fourth vehicle.
While checkpoints allow the police to make stops without any cause, they are limited in other ways. The police may not set up DWI checkpoints without first notifying the public. Usually, this means placing a notice in local newspapers, news, or radio. If drivers know about the checkpoint ahead of time, they can take alternate routes to avoid encountering the police.
Not only that, but checkpoints cannot be set up arbitrarily. There must be a good reason or need for the checkpoint. For example, checkpoints tend to pop up a lot around New Year’s Eve because the holiday is often celebrated with parties and drinking. Celebrations like this tend to lead to an uptick in drunk drivers, so DWI checkpoints become necessary. The police may not set up a checkpoint unless they have some reason to believe the checkpoint is necessary.
If you were stopped for any reason, contact our Ocean City criminal defense attorneys. We can help you fight whatever charges you may be facing.
The Legality of Pretextual Traffic Stops by the Police in New Jersey
Most drivers who are stopped by the police would probably argue that their stop was unfair. In some cases, these drivers would be correct. Police have been known to conduct pretextual stops to do things like search drivers or their cars for contraband. While this is a bit underhanded, it is not illegal.
A pretextual stop is when the police stop a driver for a valid reason, like running a red light, but their true purpose is something a bit deeper. For example, the police sometimes associate cars with heavily tinted windows with criminal activity. Drivers sometimes used tinted windows to hide illegal activity from prying eyes. However, dark window tint is not necessarily illegal and is not a just cause for a traffic stop. Instead, the police may stop you because they notice your left turn signal is broken, but they targeted you because of your window tint. This way, they may have an opportunity to drum up probable cause to arrest the driver and search the vehicle.
Pretextual stops are not unlawful because the cause for the stop is usually not false or made up. However, pretextual stops are often connected to unethical policing methods like racial profiling, which is illegal. If you believe you were the subject of a pretextual stop, contact our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers immediately. We can help you fight any unfair or unjust charges you might be facing.
Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for Traffic Stops
If you were stopped by the police and are not facing criminal charges as a result, you need the help of a qualified and experienced attorney. Reach out to our Wildwood criminal defense lawyers and discuss your experience in a free and confidential legal consultation with our team. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to get help now.