The Traffic Ticket and Stop by Police


Types of traffic stops by police officers are common question at my office. Everyone seems to think that you can be pulled over “when you do something wrong” and that’s true but the Vehicle and Traffic Law goes beyond that and makes rules to protect driver’s. A general understanding of the law will help you be prepared as you drive the roads of New York State and help you protect your rights.


The police may NOT stop a vehicle on a public highway for a routine traffic check. ONLY when the officer has “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a violation or crime is committed may the vehicle be stopped. People v Ingle, 36 NY 2d 413. A police officer’s good faith but erroneous belief that a person committed a traffic infraction (failing to signal when exiting a private driveway) will not support a stop. Byer v Jackson, 241 AD 2d 943.


In New York Traffic Court either at the Traffic Violation Bureau (TVB) or in the local justice Courts, the Courts must evaluate police conduct and determine whether the action taken was justified in its inception and at every subsequent stage of the encounter. People v Nicodemus, 247 AD 2d 833. However, a police officer’s failure to issue a ticket for a traffic infraction that was the basis for the stop does not defeat probable cause. People v Ferraiolo, 309 AD 2d 981.


In a DWI arrest the office first needs a reason to pull you over. Most police officers will find a violation of the vehicle and traffic law such as speeding, weaving out of lane or as a last resort a police officer may use an equipment violation if they suspect a motorist is driving DWI. Importantly, weaving or swerving IN a lane is not a traffic infraction and does not constitute reasonable suspicion. People v Culcross, 184 Misc. 2d 67. A stop for unsafe lane change requires a driver to signal each time when changing lanes as well as turning. People v Rice, 44 AD 3d 247. Lastly, stopping a car and approaching it with guns drawn based upon an anonymous report was improper, where there was no reasonable suspicion. People v Heapps, 13 AD 3d 107.


Reasonable suspicion is the standard the police must use to pull over a motorist. This is always the first line of attack when defending a traffic ticket or a move serious charge such as DWI, DWAI, DUI or even traffic stops that result in other charges such as drug or gun charges. Reasonable Suspicion is that amount of knowledge sufficient to justify a stop.


If you have any questions about when can the police pull you over contact one of the Westchester County criminal defense attorneys at Proto, Sachs & Brown, LLP. We offer a free consultation. Our attorneys regularly appear in the traffic Courts of New York State including the New York TVB and the local justice Courts. Our main office is in White Plains, New York but we also have offices in the Putnam and Orange Counties.

Our attorneys work to protect your license and insurance rates.

Good luck on the road.