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Probable Cause for a Police Traffic Stop

Many times when my clients are stopped by the police, they have a broken taillight, they swerved over the yellow line, or they ran a stop sign. These are obviously minor infractions. But a simple traffic stop can sometimes lead to vehicle searches and additional criminal charges. When that happens, it is important to make sure the original traffic stop was legitimate.

A few things here are really important. First and foremost, your criminal defense attorney should request a copy of the video identifying the alleged traffic violation or activity which was the basis for the stop. Most police cars are now equipped with a video camera, and if the officer says that you crossed the double line, then that should show up on the video tape.

Motion to SuppressLafayette Louisiana police car

If the traffic violation is noted in the police report, then there should be video evidence to back this up. If and when you obtain a copy of the video and the traffic violation is not shown, the case is now subject to a Motion to Suppress among other motions.

The Motion to Suppress could possibly convince the judge that the officer was mistaken or is simply not telling the truth about the basis for the stop. If the video tape does not confirm the police report, the judge could throw out the charge or at least suppress the evidence thereby forcing the district attorney to dismiss the charge. This is usually the case with Lafayette Parish District judges. But wherever you are located, it is always very important to ensure that the allegations in the police report are confirmed by the video tape.

Recently I represented a client who was stopped for having a muffler that exceeded the Lafayette Parish sound ordinance. According to that particular ordinance, a muffler’s sound may not exceed a certain decibel level. What we did is to obtain the police video tape and a sound tape of the muffler decibel level. We were able to verify that the muffler did not exceed the maximum decibel level. Subsequent to receiving that information and confirming it with the videotape, we filed a Motion to Suppress seeking to dismiss all charges based on the illegality of the police traffic stop.

Illegal Traffic Stops

What one should always remember is that under our constitution, the probable cause (the reason for the stop) must be legal. If the stop is illegal, any and all evidence seized thereafter is inadmissible. Proving that the stop was illegal will then force the district attorney to dismiss all criminal charges based on the stop.

Another example would be if the officer claims there was a broken tail light and that was the reason for the traffic stop. The police officer then searches the car and finds 10 lbs of cocaine. If the video does not confirm that the taillight was indeed broken, that evidentiary matter (the 10 lbs of cocaine) would not be admissible in court.

If your criminal attorney is aggressive, pursues the law, examines the evidence, and files the appropriate motions, the case will likely be dismissed.

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