Have you ever been stopped by police and asked the question, "Do you know why I pulled you over today?" I always laugh to myself when I hear this question, and wish I could ask the officer, "Is this a trick question?" There are many reasons why police officers can stop you while you are driving a vehicle, some of which are actually a little hard to believe.
If you are driving a vehicle, and an officer sees your license plate, they are within the confines of many judicial decisions to run your tag to see if the license plate is matched to the proper vehicle and if the registration is current. They can also check to see if the registered owner of the vehicle has any outstanding warrants. If the registered owner does have outstanding warrants, and the officer cannot determine if the driver is obviously not the owner (i.e., if the registered owner is a woman, and the driver is a man, it would be obvious that the owner was not driving) they are within the letter of the law to conduct a traffic stop.
Speeding is a very common reason for a traffic stop to occur. In fact, an officer does not need to have radar or any technological evidence to stop a vehicle if he observes the vehicle and concludes that it is travelling over the speed limit. Our Appeals court has held that "it is well established in this State, that any person of ordinary intelligence, who had a reasonable opportunity to observe a vehicle in motion and judge its speed may testify as to his estimation of the speed of that vehicle,"
But can an officer legally stop a vehicle which he believes is moving too slowly? In North Carolina, it is not completely settled as to whether an officer may conduct a traffic stop based on a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot merely because he observed a vehicle driving under the speed limit. When an officer notices a vehicle travelling under the speed limit, it may give rise to a suspicion that the driver is impaired. But the courts are split on whether a slow moving vehicle is enough to conduct a legal traffic stop. Most of the times, the court points to other factors, such as weaving or crossing a double yellow line, that support the question of reasonable suspicion.
If you have questions about the manner in which you were stopped, and are seeking legal advice, contact the The Law Offices of Darrin M. Gamradt, P.C.