What constitutes a legal stop by the police?

UPDATED: Sep 18, 2011

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What constitutes a legal stop by the police?

Last night I was pulled over and subsequently arrested. I was pulled over because an officer saw someone they’ve been keeping an eye on get in my car (she’s an old friend; I was at a gas station with her and another friend getting coffee). When they pulled me over, their reason was that “it came up that the driver of this vehicle has a suspended license.” Which is crap because it’s my car and my license is not suspended. Then 2 more cops showed up and got everyone out of the car so they could search it because it smelled like pot. I was arrested because I had marijuana and a pipe in my possession.

Asked on September 18, 2011 under Criminal Law, Ohio


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In the balance between your Constitutional rights and the right of the police to uphold the law, the distinction between what is a legal stop and an illegal stop will turn on the specific facts of every case.  The police only need a legitimate basis to stop your vehicle and not the higher threshold of probable cause.  If they told you you were stopped because of the suspended license and you know it was baloney then you have an issue as to the subsequent search being invalid.  I would speak with an attorney in your area on the matter as soon as you possible can.  He or she needs to make various motions regarding these issues and to exclude the evidence found if need be.

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