Even though most people use the roads and highways of our state every day, driving is a privilege rather than a right. People must be properly screened and licensed before they are even allowed behind the wheel of a car. When people commit traffic infractions, they can be pulled over. The police need to know who they are dealing with at each stop, and they will run your license to verify your personal information.
When the police run your license, they see far more than the status of your license and basic personal info. They may also see whether there is a warrant out for your arrest and parts of your driving and criminal history. If you are in hot water with the law, a simple traffic stop could lead to you being arrested. However, there are limits on where and when the police may run your license.
If you were recently pulled over by the authorities and arrested, you should speak with a lawyer immediately. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can help you fight any charges against you. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review with our staff.
What Does It Mean to “Run a License” in New Jersey?
If you have never been pulled over before or are a new driver, you might be unfamiliar with how a traffic stop works. Typically, when the police stop you, the first thing they ask is for your license and registration. The officer needs to know if the car is properly registered and whether the driver is properly licensed. However, the officer will do a bit more than simply check the license.
In many cases, the officer will take the license and run it through their computer system. Most police cars nowadays are equipped with mobile computers, so the police have access to all kinds of databases, even while out on the road. When they run a driver’s license, they are essentially checking up on the driver. If anything is out of the ordinary, like a warrant for your arrest, the officer will see it.
People often run into trouble because they were unaware that they were in trouble. Minor acts, like missing a court date or falling behind on child or spousal support payments, could cause a bench warrant to be issued in your name. It is not uncommon for people to have no idea about any warrants, and they are typically shocked when they are arrested at a traffic stop. Our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys can help you out if you were caught off guard at a traffic stop.
What the Police Can See When They Run Your License in New Jersey
The police can see a plethora of information when they run your license. They may have access to your driving record and even see parts of your criminal history as well. For example, if you are stopped for a DUI, the police will run your license. If you have a history of DUIs, the police will know and take action accordingly.
The police may see a list of your personal identifying information. Much of this info may already be on your physical license, but it can crop up if the police run your license. Information like physical descriptors, name, age, and address is all available. This is important because some drivers might attempt to use a fake license or drive on an expired license. If the license is no good, the officer will know.
The police may also get “hits” when they run a license. A hit is like a bit of incriminating information about the driver that might be grounds for arrest. Common hits are warrants. If there is a bench warrant issued in your name, it will come up as a hit. In addition, if there is an arrest warrant out for you in connection with a criminal investigation, that will also come up as a hit.
The police typically have access to your driving and criminal record as well. If they are suspicious, they may check your driving history to see if you have any other citations. Contact our Cape May criminal defense lawyers for help if you were arrested after a traffic stop.
The Difference Between Running a Plate and a License in New Jersey
Do not confuse your driver’s license with a license plate. Police often run a driver’s plates without pulling them over, but they need to pull you over and talk to you in order to run your license. The police can run both these things, and they may yield different kinds of information.
The license plate typically provides information about the car it is attached to, not necessarily the driver. Basic information, like the make and model of the car, the VIN, and registration information, are all available to the police officer running the plates. If the car doesn’t match the plates, the police might suspect you of driving a stolen car or using stolen plates. They can also see who the car’s registered owner is and whether the car is reported stolen. Many car thieves are apprehended in this manner.
You could be charged if your license plate is obscured or missed from your car. Contact our Haddonfield, NJ criminal defense attorneys if you believe you were stopped for an unlawful reason.
Challenging an Arrest After the Police in New Jersey Ran Your License
The police are permitted to run your license and your plates under different circumstances. It is important to understand this distinction because a subsequent arrest can be challenged if the police improperly ran your license.
Generally, the police can run a plate any time they want. Plates are exhibited on the outside of vehicles and are meant to be easily visible. People have very little expectation of privacy in their plates, so the police may search them however they wish. It is not unheard of for the police to sit along the side of the road and run the plates of random vehicles that pass by. If they see something suspicious, like the vehicle was reported stolen, they can pull the car over and investigate.
Running a person’s driver’s license, on the other hand, is more complicated. The police are ordinarily not allowed to run a driver’s license unless they have probable cause to investigate. While they are free to randomly check plates, they must actively investigate a driver to run a license search. This generally means you must be pulled over for a valid reason for the officer to be permitted to run your license. If you believe the officer had no cause for the stop and therefore was not permitted to run your license, you may challenge your arrest. Contact our Ocean City criminal defense lawyers for more information.
Call Our New Jersey Motor Vehicle Crimes Defense Attorneys
If law enforcement pulled you over, the officer likely ran both your plates and your license. If you were subsequently arrested, our Sea Isle City criminal defense attorneys can help. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free case review.