The Automobile Stop
The automobile stop is one of the most common type of police encounters. In Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Putnam Counties the local justice courts a very busy because of the several police departments on the roads including county police, the state police and local law enforcement. A proper review of the stop, traffic ticket and subsequent arrest is important to any criminal defense. In White Plains, New York the city police routinely have day time check points to inspect, seat belts, cell phone use, insurance and registration.
The Stop of a Vehicle by Police Officers
The police sometimes will use a traffic infraction as a purported justification to stop a vehicle in order to search the vehicle or question the occupants about an unrelated serious crime. Because the police have no reason to stop the vehicle for a serious crime the police will use a traffic infraction as a "Pretext" to stop the vehicle, search the vehicle and question the occupants.
The Pretext Stop
The best way to describe a "Pretext" stop of a vehicle is a legal stop carried out for an illegal purpose. Pretext stops have been criticized as an unreasonable and arbitrary exercise of discretionary police power.
Usually if the police a observe a suspicious vehicle they will follow that vehicle for a lengthy period of time and once a traffic infraction is committed the vehicle will be stopped to investigate the more serious crime. Often no traffic ticket is written for the stop but an arrest is made for the more serious crime.
Under both the federal and state constitutions the police may use a a traffic stop as a pretext to search a vehicle for evidence of another offense. Whren v U.S., 517 US 806; People v Robinson, 97 NY2d 341.
The Criminal Defense of a Pretext Stop
The top criminal defense lawyers know that although the police can use a pretext stop the facts surrounding the stop are very important to the defense. Usually the stop will be deemed legal but the attack is with the other police actions or behavior. Since this is complex it can often be overlooked. Always speak to a criminal defense attorney in New York about the facts surrounding the stop, the police's actions and your actions for the criminal defense attorney to properly review the case.