• Attorney Denise M. Buswa

Arrive Alive...Pretextual Stops and more.

Updated: Apr 25, 2018

Recently, there has been a significant amount of publications in the media about police encounters, specifically with minorities. These pretextual encounters, which usually occur in the context of traffic stops are conducted by the police pulling a person over for a minor traffic violation when in reality the police are using the traffic violation as a "pretext" to investigate the suspicion of a more serious crime when the police do not have the requisite probable cause. Such encounters - although legal - can become very stressful, dangerous, and life-altering for the accused. In these situations it is best to comply with the police officer's demands such as to produce identification, insurance, registration, and to exit the vehicle, if ordered to do so. There is no requirement to answer any further questions from the police nor is there any requirement for the police to read the accused Miranda Rights until the accused is no longer in a position to leave - meaning, he or she is under arrest, or no longer free to leave. Like everything in the law, there are always exceptions to this general rule, which is why it is generally never a good idea to speak to the police without an attorney. During the traffic stop, the police may conduct a cursory search of the driver and passengers for weapons. The police may, in limited circumstances conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle. Generally, a warrantless search of a vehicle can occur when the police officer is given consent to search, the officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle, the officer believes that a search is necessary for his own protection, or there has been an arrest and the search is conducted incident to arrest. Any potential violations of the accused's rights can be addressed later in court. Although being pulled over for a traffic violation seems to be a minor disruption, it can lead to significant complications for the driver and his or her passengers, especially if it was done as a pretext. When I was growing up there was a saying that was often displayed in commercials and bill boards referring to the use of seatbelts: Arrive Alive. Unfortunately, that saying still applies today only under a different context due to the current state of police - minority encounters. Arrive Alive - comply with the police officer's demands and address any violations in court.


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