Illegal Traffic Stops and Probable Cause

Earlier this week, Douglass Juarez, a Washoe County, NV resident, was relieved to learn that his felony drug charges for transporting roughly 9 pounds of marijuana were dropped. The arresting officer did find the drugs in question in Douglas Juarez’s car, so why were the charges dropped? The answer: a technicality.

The arrest was made in Wyoming, where the state district court had previously ruled that the Wyoming law requiring motorists to signal when merging onto an interstate was ambiguous. Since the law was ambiguous and therefore unenforceable, the police officer had no probable cause to stop Douglass Juarez. Thus, the stop made by the police was illegal and all evidence obtained could be suppressed in court, leaving the prosecution very little to go on.

DUI cases in particular can be affected by the question of probable cause and illegal stops. As a Las Vegas DUI attorney, I have witnessed how illegal traffic stops can turn the tide in a case. A law enforcement officer can pull a car over with probable cause, which often commonly includes:

  • A driver swerving erratically
  • Abrupt stops by a driver
  • A driver drifting between lanes
  • A driver driving at high or low speeds

The law enforcement officer needs to have witnessed a traffic violation or crime committed by the driver or a passenger. If it is revealed in court that this was not the case, then any evidence obtained after the fact can be suppressed, similar to what occurred in Douglass Juarez’s case. This includes the results of field sobriety tests.

Whether a person is facing DUI charges, marijuana charges, or drug charges in Las Vegas, it is critical for the defense to explore the circumstances in which the stop was made. If you think your arresting officer had no probable cause to pull your vehicle over, then it is important to call a criminal defense attorney who can file a motion to dismiss the case or suppress evidence on your behalf.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Tuesday night 12/4 driving from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City in a rental car, with out of state plates. I was pulled over for going the speed limit. The officer stated ” he had the right to know who was driving on his highway period and ask if I had a problem with that” Word for word what he said. Then he let me go, I am super pissed as he let 2 cars speed by, he explained that he can pull over whoever he wants. Is this legal?

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