When Can Police Stop You?

When Can Police Stop You?
Getting stopped by the police can be scary. If you are pulled over, it's important to remain calm and follow all instructions from the law enforcement officer. However, you should also know your rights and understand when a stop is legal. Although you should never resist an arrest or search, you should reach out to an attorney if you believe you were stopped without just cause.

The Legal Basis for a Stop

A traffic stop is legally considered a detention, which means you’re not being arrested, but you’re also not free to leave. An officer needs probable cause to make an arrest, they only need reasonable suspicion to detain you. To demonstrate probable cause, there need to be objective observations and facts that would indicate a crime. In the case of reasonable suspicion, the officer needs to demonstrate that there was a chance a crime was occurring. This needs to be more than a “hunch.” The officer can’t pull you over simply because they have a feeling you’re committing a crime. However, reasonable suspicion does not have the same barriers as probable cause. During the stop, the officer will continue to observe the situation in order to determine whether a crime has occurred. If there is probable cause, or if you consent, they may search your vehicle.

Reasonable Suspicion for a Stop

Some situations that might give a police officer reasonable suspicion to stop you include:

  • Speeding: This is the most common reason that drivers are stopped by police overall.
  • Equipment Violations: Law enforcement officers can stop you if there are issues with your vehicle, such as a broken taillight or cracked windshield.
  • Cell Phone Use: As of January 2021, it is illegal in Arizona to use a cell phone while driving unless it is in hands-free mode.
  • Improper Lane Change: Failing to use a turn signal, cutting off another vehicle, switching lanes without looking can trigger a stop.
  • Evidence of Impairment: Police officers watch for signs of impaired driving, which may include swerving, driving very slowly, or sudden braking.
An arrest may occur due to evidence that is found during a stop, even if this evidence is not related to the reason for the stop. For example, if an officer stops your car for a broken taillight and then notices an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, they have probable cause for an arrest.

What About DUI Checkpoints?

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) checkpoints are an exception to the requirement that there is reasonable suspicion for stop. In these cases, law enforcement will either stop every car or have a system to stop some of the cars going through the checkpoint. Some states have determined that these types of stops are unconstitutional, but they are still legal in Arizona.

What to Do If You Are Stopped Without Reasonable Suspicion

If you are stopped by law enforcement and you believe this stop was unlawful, it is important to know your rights. Cooperate with any requests the officer makes, but do not offer any extra information. If an arrest occurs, contact an attorney as soon as possible and make sure you have the legal guidance you need. The DUI Defense Team is here to help you. Our experts can guide you through every step of protecting your rights.
In the event that you are stopped by the police, contact us for a free consultation.
2929 E. Broadway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ. 85716