What starts as a simple traffic stop in Colorado can quickly escalate into a life-altering interaction for a motorist. Police officers who believe that they have uncovered proof of criminal activity, like impaired driving, may arrest someone whom they initially only suspected of committing a basic traffic infraction.
The evidence that they gather during the traffic stop will likely form the basis of any charges that the state pursues later. Many people accused of impaired driving offenses and similar charges in Colorado give up and plead guilty because they believe that it is impossible to defend against the state’s case. However, there are scenarios in which the evidence secured in a traffic stop might not hold up in criminal court.
A traffic stop may be illegal
Officers do not have the authority to stop anyone they wish without justification. They need a reasonable suspicion of a crime, even if that crime is a traffic offense like failing to use a turn signal. Those stopped by a Colorado police officer while driving should be able to inquire as to the reason for the traffic stop and receive a straightforward answer from the officer. If the officer did not have an actual justification to pull someone over initially, that may compromise the usefulness of any evidence they secured during the stop.
A search initiated by an officer may be illegal
Just because a traffic stop itself is legal does not mean that anything an officer does after pulling someone over is automatically lawful. If officers make mistakes about how or when they search, that can undermine the usefulness of anything they find. For example, police officers may search a vehicle without someone’s permission and then use what they find in the vehicle as grounds for an arrest or to demand chemical testing. If the search of the vehicle did not result from permission, a warrant or probable cause, then any evidence secured in that search may be vulnerable to challenges during a criminal trial.
Those who understand their rights when dealing with police officers will be in a better position to assert their rights by refusing an unnecessary search or requesting information about why the officer stopped them initially. Similarly, this knowledge can help to inform a solid criminal defense strategy. Knowing and making use of one’s rights to make a big difference to those accused of a driving under the influence (DUI) offense after a Colorado traffic stop.