Under what circumstances can an officer pull you over?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2015

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Under what circumstances can an officer pull you over?

I was just pulled over by a local police officer on a highway. The officer informed me that my registration was revoked. After writing the ticket I asked the officer (this is recorded on video) why he pulled me over initially. He responded “I was just running plates and yours came up revoked”. I then asked if he needed probable cause to run my plate he responded “no that is public information”. Can an officer pull you over with no other probable cause then just running your plate at random or “bingo hunting” as its referred to. Further isn’t the right to travel unmolested protected by the constitution under “personal liberty”?

Asked on January 9, 2015 under Criminal Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An officer may look at your plate, since it is visible from the outside of your car. Your plates and registration are public information, so he may then access it. So yes, an officer can run your plate and pull you over if he discovers a revoked registration. It's no different from pulling you over if he sees blown or out headlights, a dangerous wheel shimmy, fresh-looking blood on your hood, or anything else which could indicate a legal violation, evidence of a crime, or a safety hazard, if such thing is visible from a position which could be occupied by any member of the public. The right to interstate travel does not protect you from being pulled over for a violation of the law or to prevent harm; the police power of the state allows it to do those things.

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