A Redwood City Traffic Ticket Attorney Explains Pretext Stops

Posted on May 13, 2013

Pretext Stops What constitutes a pretext stop?

Your Redwood City traffic ticket lawyer can explain that a pretext stop is exactly what the word “pretext” implies. This is when a police officer stops a motorist for a minor traffic infraction and then uses that as an excuse (pretext) to search the vehicle for suspected evidence of an unrelated and usually more serious offense.

Can they do that?

Yes. As your Redwood City traffic ticket attorney can confirm, if you have committed even a minor traffic violation, or are driving in a manner that leads the officer to suspect a DUI, the officer is within the scope of his duty to pull you over. The possibility that he may suspect you of some other illegal activity makes no difference in the validity of the stop. The stop is legal. The officer cannot, however, stop you on suspicion alone. There must be a valid, justifiable reason for the stop.

Can the officer confiscate any contraband items in my vehicle?

Obviously, as your Redwood City traffic ticket lawyer may point out, you shouldn’t be carrying contraband in your car to begin with. However, the point here is to examine the circumstances and legality of pretext stops. If the contraband is in plain sight such that the officer can see it without having to move anything, then yes, it can be confiscated. That falls under the “plain view” doctrine and the seizure is legal.

Does the officer have the right to search my vehicle on a pretext stop?

The officer must have your permission or a warrant in order to search your vehicle. You are within your rights to refuse to allow the search at the scene. The officer is then within his or her rights to obtain a warrant if there is a reasonable articulable suspicion that you are carrying something illegal.

Does the officer have the right to search me at a pretext stop?

Your Redwood City traffic ticket lawyer can tell you that the officer may search your person without a warrant if there is a reasonable articulable suspicion that you are armed and/or present a danger. The officer cannot search you on a hunch unless you have provoked the search through violent resistance, open hostility or threats.

Call your Redwood City traffic ticket lawyer for help

If you believe that you have been stopped without a justifiable reason, don’t hesitate. Contact a Redwood City traffic ticket lawyer with Silveira Law at (415) 795-3890 and be sure your rights are protected.