When Can a Cop Pull Me Over?
A recent audit conducted by the State of Michigan revealed that nearly three-fourths of all drunk drivers in Michigan are male. It would be impermissible profiling, however, if a police officer were permitted to pull a male driver over on suspicion of operating while intoxicated that he was driving drunk simply because he was male. If police cannot rely on statistics that show men drive drunk more frequently than women to pull a driver over, however, what information does a police officer need to legally stop a car? Furthermore, what happens if the officer does not have sufficient information to pull you over?
An Officer Needs More Than a Hunch
The legal term describing the amount of information a police officer needs to stop your car is “reasonable suspicion.” The officer does not need to know with certainty that you have, in fact, committed a crime. Instead, the officer must have objective facts available and known to him or her that give rise to a reasonable conclusion that you may have committed, are in the process of committing, or are about to commit a crime. The officer’s ultimate conclusion – that you are connected to criminal activity in some way – may be wrong, but so long as the officer can point to objective facts that would suggest criminal activity, he or she can stop your car. Even something as simple as committing a traffic infraction in the presence of the officer can provide a sufficient ground to stop your car.
An officer may not act on a “hunch.” A “hunch” or “gut feeling” is a conclusion the officer may reach based on his or her experiences or personal feelings that has no basis in fact. An officer who stops a male driver believing that the driver is drunk simply because he is male is acting on a “hunch.” A traffic stop resulting from a “hunch” is illegal and subject to suppression.
Suppressing a Traffic Stop
If you were stopped because of an officer’s hunch that you were engaged in wrongdoing, you or your Michigan OWI attorney may be able to have the evidence obtained from the illegal stop suppressed or kept out of court under Wong Sun v. United States. This means that any observations the officer made about you after you had stopped your vehicle, any field sobriety tests you performed, and any alcohol or blood test you submitted to would not be considered by the court because they would be “fruit of the poisonous tree.” In all substantial likelihood, your case would be dismissed.
Work with a Michigan OWI Attorney
Challenging the legality of a traffic stop is not easy: officers are given a great deal of discretion and deferment by the court as to who they stop and when. The burden that the prosecution must meet in order to justify a traffic stop is quite low. An experienced OWI attorney can look at the evidence in your case, such as the officer’s reports, videos from car camera systems, and the content of any “tips” the officer relied upon to determine if it is possible to suppress evidence in your case. Contact the experienced Michigan OWI attorneys at Van Den Heuvel Law Office for assistance by calling (616) 698-0000 or contact us through our website.