Is it legal to read a person’s arrest history and pull them over passed on that?

I was driving with a broken tail light and got pulled over a quarter-half mile away from where the cop saw the tail light. When I got pulled over there were 3 police vehicles that pulled up next to me right away. I have had past drug history and was out on a bond. If multiple cops have seen the light and not pulled you over for it can a cop pull you over for it? How long can a cop follow you before pulling you over?

Asked on February 22, 2013 under Criminal Law, South Dakota


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

A cop can continue following you while he makes a decision to initiate a traffic stop. As long as he is observing the traffic infraction, he can continue to follow. The only time limit is based on geography. He cannot follow you outside of his/her jurisdiction. If he does not make the stop prior to you leaving his jurisdiction, then the stop could be thrown out.

You raise a secondary question about other cops seeing the light and not pulling you over. This could be helpful evidence in getting the stop suppressed if you want to challenge whether or not there was a violation to justify the stop. However, it won't matter if the violation is visible on the officer's video recording of the stop. If the video supports his basis, then the stop can and will be upheld.

You ask an additional question required the use of your criminal history. Officers are allowed to review a person's history prior or during a stop so that they will be aware of any caution flags. They cannot make a stop based solely on a person's criminal history, but it can affect how they approach the person. In your case, it looks like they used extra caution because of something on your history. As long as this was not the only reason they pulled you over, it was permissible to review and use your criminal history.

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