Did the Police Illegally Pull You Over in North Carolina?
Being pulled over by police is one of the most stressful experiences that a person can have. Often, directing their steering wheel toward the shoulder is the last conscious choice the individual will be able to make until after the interaction has concluded, and a lot can happen in the interim. Whether you end up continuing on your way or in handcuffs is in large part up to the officer who pulls you over. If you are facing charges as a result of being pulled over in North Carolina, it is important to determine whether the initial stop was legal.
What Makes a Traffic Stop Illegal?
Police may have broad authority when it comes to enforcing the law, but they cannot pull over anyone for any reason. Rather, in order to pull someone over legally the police must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a traffic offense or had broken a law. This reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch or gut feeling. The officers must be able to articulate, based on specific and observable facts, why they believed it was necessary to pull you over. If police cannot sufficiently articulate a reasonable suspicion for stopping you, or if you can show that their stated reasonable suspicion was not a valid reason for stopping you, then the stop was illegal and in violation of your constitutional rights. The officers’ reasonable suspicion cannot be retroactive and cannot be justified by means of information obtained after the stop was made. For instance, if an officer pulled someone over without articulable suspicion on the basis of a hunch, and then found evidence of a crime in plan view in the front seat of the car, the stop would still be illegal and the evidence viewed could not be used as a means of validating the initial stop. This means that any charges stemming from this stop, as well as any evidence collected, cannot be used against you in court. This will likely result in your charges being dismissed.
What Makes a Search Illegal?
Even if an officer has reasonable suspicion sufficient to pull you over, it does not give them the right to search your vehicle. In order to conduct a vehicle search the officer must meet the heightened standard of probable cause. If the officer lacks probable cause and does not obtain your voluntary consent to perform a search and does so anyway, any evidence that they seize will not be admissible in court and your charges will likely be dropped. This is a good reason never to consent to a search as it leaves open the possibility for challenging their probable cause later on.
Talk to the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Coastal South Law
If you are facing charges for possession or another crime stemming from a stop or search in North Carolina that you believe violated your constitutional rights, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Coastal South Law want to hear from you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.