Could the police delay a traffic stop?

by | Aug 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense

A DUI charge in New Jersey could leave a driver in a complex legal position. Someone whose BAC shows a significant presence of alcohol might have a hard time defending the charges. That said, constitutional rights apply, and the police cannot search and arrest anyone without probable cause. Reasonable suspicion may precede probable cause, but the suspicion must be legitimate. The police can’t delay a traffic stop forever, hoping to charge someone with a DUI or an unrelated crime.

Aspects of reasonable suspicion

Reasonable suspicion, essentially, centers on the presence of facts that support a reasonable conclusion to suspect a crime occurred or will occur. A driver that doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign may present a reasonable suspicion of a DUI. However, reasonable suspicion is not probable cause, and it is not enough to support a search or arrest.

Delayed traffic stops

The police could stop a vehicle for a moving violation and smell alcohol coming from the car. The scent of alcohol or the presence of open bottles may lead to a sobriety test and a DUI charge. Perhaps the stop results in uncovering drugs or weapons. More charges would likely follow. However, when the police keep a driver stopped for an unusual amount of time, law enforcement might be in the wrong.

If the police pull someone over for a moving violation, they cannot detain the person for an unnecessary period. Letting someone sit in the car for an hour and then using the person’s visible anxiety serve as probable cause for a search could be dubious. Even if the search uncovers drugs, the search might be illegal. The court could rule that the police acted improperly and there was neither reasonable suspicion nor probable cause, and the arrest violated the defendant’s rights.