In many cases for possession of marijuana, my clients end up charged with possession of marijuana due to a routine traffic stop. The officer finds some reason to pull them over for something, begins to discuss the ticket that he thinks he’s going to issue, and ends up with probable cause for marijuana.
But what if the office did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over? If that’s the case, then anything that he finds during the search will be suppressed in court. If he made a stop for something that’s not actually against the law, then we have a very compelling argument to have anything that he finds during the stop to be suppressed and not brought into evidence.
In one case my client was stopped due to allegedly not having a front license plate. The client told me that his plate was properly mounted, and it was clearly mounted correctly on the vehicle. When I listened to the police video, the officer walked up to the front of the car and says, “Do you know why I pulled you over? It’s because you don’t have front plate,” and my client said, “Well, yes I do have a front plate.” Then a little while later the officer looks at the front bumper and says, “There is a plate.”
What we had in this case was a classic example of an officer making a mistake (at least I hope it was an honest mistake). The officer pulled someone over based on what he thinks to be an illegal action, and it turns out that he was wrong.
When we got to court surprisingly the officer maintained his version that the front plate was not mounted properly. However, I produced a photograph showing the white license plate mounted dead center on my client’s dark-colored bumper. Once the prosecutor saw that, it was clear that the officer did not have any reasonable suspicion to pull my client over, and the case quickly went away.
That’s just one tiny example of how a bad stop can keep out evidence. And most prosecutors will drop a case when they know they have a bad stop.
However, to determine whether or not the stop is bad and to really push that in a borderline case, an attorney is usually needed. In this particular case, the commonwealth attorney was very reasonable, but I had to convince them that the officer was not accurate on the nature of the stop. Sometimes they trust the officer’s report a little too much, and without an attorney pushing on behalf of the driver, I’m not sure that that case would have turned out in a positive way for the driver.
Photo by: Gamma Man
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