You are driving along the Atlantic City Expressway or another road in New Jersey when, suddenly, you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror and you begin to hear the blare of sirens. At first, you thought it may have been an ambulance approaching since you did not recall doing anything wrong. But then, you realize that it’s actually a New Jersey State Trooper that is signaling for you to pull over.
At this point, many drivers wonder what rights they have when stopped by police, whether it’s for a small traffic violation or something as serious as a DUI/DWI arrest by New Jersey State Troopers. They may wonder what types of things that they can and cannot do during a traffic stop. As a general rule, drivers should comply with instructions given by a police officer, but there are exceptions where the officer may overstep his or her legal rights.
What Is Required for a Cop to Make a Traffic Stop?
People routinely state that a police officer can’t just pull them over for no reason. While this statement is technically true, the standard that guides whether an officer can pull over a driver is not particularly stringent. Under the standard, the police officer must have what is known as ”reasonable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion can include violation of traffic laws, such as signaled lane changes or aggressive driving, or the use of a mobile device while driving. Therefore, it certainly does take more than no reason or any reason for an officer to pull over a driver.
However, it is important to note that the “reasonable suspicion” standard is not particularly stringent and does not reach the level of “probable cause.” Probable cause means that a reasonable person is likely to believe that an individual is committing, has committed, or is planning to commit a crime. By contrast, reasonable suspicion, as defined by the 1968 Terry v. Ohio United States Supreme Court case, can be satisfied by a factual basis for the stop. Under New Jersey’s own Supreme Court’s interpretation of the reasonable suspicion standard, the court held in State v. Carpentieri that police must have an “articulable and reasonable suspicion” before making a stop for DUI.
If you are requested by an officer to stop, you must do so even if you believe that the basis of the stop is unsound or if you believe to be operating under an emergency situation. If you are attempting to reach the hospital due to a medical emergency, it is prudent to pull over and inform the officer of the emergency. Most police officers will then help the driver reach the hospital or destination where, depending on the circumstances, they may or may not proceed with the stop. Failure to comply with the officer’s request to stop could result in its own charges. Likewise, if the officer requests the driver to produce identification some form of I.D. must be provided.
Am I Required to Consent to a Search?
After a stop, an officer may always request to search your car. Many officers may phrase the question in the form of a command, but absent a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” the police officer may not search a car on the basis of a traffic stop, alone. Furthermore there are limits on how long an officer has to establish such reasonable grounds for a search. In the New Jersey Supreme Court case State v. Pegeese, the court held that the police are not permitted to detain the occupants of a vehicle for a search by consent without evidence of a violation or criminal conduct once evidence of proper licensing and registration has been provided. That is, police must conduct stops with reasonable diligence. What this means is that for a routine traffic stop based solely on an alleged traffic violation is that reasonable diligence would permit the officer the time needed to make the stop, collect and analyze the forms of identification presented, check the driver’s record, and to issue any ticket or warning for the alleged moving violation.
Facing Criminal Charges in New Jersey?
If you have been stopped by and officer and charged with a crime due to a traffic stop, you could potentially face serious criminal penalties. The experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys of the Law Firm of john J. Zarych can fight to protect your legal rights and freedom. To schedule a confidential and free legal consultation call our firm at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.