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 Law Offices of Darrin M. Gamradt, P.C.