How Do You Prove a Police Stop was Unlawful?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Legal Representation for Victims of Unlawful Police Stops in New Mexico

woman being pulled over by policeUnder the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, you are protected from unlawful searches and seizures of your property. This means that if a search or seizure without a warrant is performed, it may be deemed unconstitutional by the court and evidence gathered cannot be used against you. The issue often arises after a police stop, and it is confused more often than not when police officers search a vehicle after a stop.

The Exception to the Warrant Requirement

While most instances require that law enforcement obtain a signed warrant from a judge, there are exceptions to this rule – which often occur during traffic stops. For example, searches of vehicles often take place without a warrant and they may lead to your arrest.

If you give police consent to search your vehicle, they are also not violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

However, for the arrest to be lawful, it must have probable cause. Officers must have an acceptable reason for searching your vehicle. If they have cause to arrest, then they have reason to believe you have committed a crime. Once you are arrested, police have the right to search your body, as well as your vehicle, if they believe the search will yield evidence related to their reason for arresting you in the first place.

The Validity of Searches for Motorists

After you have been stopped and evidence is removed from your vehicle, the issue of whether that evidence is valid and admissible depends on:

  • The reasons why the officer stopped you in the first place, and
  • If the circumstances of the stop provide the necessary exception required for there to be no warrant present.

Also, the courts will consider exigent circumstances and determine if the police officer had to act immediately due to a public safety concern.

The police and prosecution may argue that your right to privacy in your vehicle is lower than the privacy of your home.

Searches from Traffic Violations

If you were speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, or violated the traffic laws in some way, that does not justify the search of your vehicle. This is because excessive speed does not indicate that you are violent and it does not give the officer reason to suspect that he or she is in danger because of your driving.

If, however, the officer believes that you may assault him or her, then the officer may have probable cause to search your vehicle – for example, if you threaten the officer or refuse to produce a driver’s license.

Reasons for Stopping the Vehicle

Officers must present a legal reason for stopping your vehicle in the first place. If they stopped your vehicle without cause, then any evidence obtained from the search will be inadmissible in court.

Legally, officers must have reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle. That means they must have a reasonable suspicion that you violated traffic laws. These often come from the police officer’s word – which is their word against your own.

Contact an Attorney Immediately Regarding Your Unlawful Stop

If you were stopped by law enforcement and you believe that it was unlawful, you do have rights under the law. Contact the criminal defense team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today for your free case evaluation.

Call 505-375-4672 or fill out our online contact form for more information.