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Why Did You Get Pulled Over?


Understanding the Basis for a Traffic Stop

One of the most common questions we see in cases involving traffic stops is, “Why did I get pulled over?”  You may think, “it’s because I had a nice car,” or “it’s because of the area of town I was in.”  Well, that is certainly possible, but if that is the only reason or reasons, that may be an illegal traffic stop.

When does an officer have a basis to pull someone over?  In legal terms, the test is this:  “is there reasonable suspicion based upon specific and articulable facts to believe a crime has been or is being committed?”  In everyday terms, this means:  “can the officer specifically explain why it is believed the driver (or occupant) of the vehicle has committed or is committing a crime?”  Not a hunch or guess.  Rather, explain specifically.

In many cases, an entire defense may hinge on the basis of a traffic stop.  For example, was there a light law violation; failure to use a blinker; was there a brake light out; was there a headlight out; was the vehicle swerving; and, the list goes on and on.

So, to clarify, you may be in a nice car.  You may be in the “wrong” area.  These facts alone should not be the only bases to make a traffic stop.  There must be more.  There must be a specific explanation as to why the officer believes a crime has been or is being committed.  

Tommy Santel is a co-founding partner of Santel | Garner. Tommy is a former government prosecutor. He is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Tommy’s practice areas include criminal defense and civil litigation.

This blog is made available by Santel | Garner for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a general overview of the law, not provide specific legal advice. By using this blog and website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Santel | Garner . This blog and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.