Many people have been in the unfortunate situation of being pulled over by police for a traffic violation. Often, people pay the fine and move on.
However, if that traffic stop turns into serious criminal charges, close inspection of the stop can be critical to determine if it was lawful in the first place. In some cases, the courts may dismiss criminal charges if the stop was improper. That was the case in another state recently.
How an officer caused a traffic infraction
According to reports, police received a tip that a black Camry could be transporting drugs. Police saw a car matching this description and noted an SUV behind the Camry. An officer reportedly pulled up behind the SUV and tracked the driver's speed, which was exactly at the speed limit.
The officer then pulled next to the SUV driver and "stared" at the driver for about one minute. The driver reportedly slowed down to 53 mph, which matched the squad car's speed but was just below the minimum speed allowed on the road. The officer then pulled the driver over for going too slowly. He searched the car and found nothing.
However, after the driver was pulled over, authorities discovered he had an expired visa and ordered a second search of his car. During the second search, authorities found four pounds of heroin.
Multiple problems lead to dismissed charges
A federal judge tossed the case after finding numerous issues with the traffic stop that ultimately led to the discovery of heroin, which the judge deemed fruit of the poisonous tree.
First, the officer was not justified in pulling the driver over, as the officer was responsible for causing the alleged traffic violation.
He also noted driving below the speed limit is appropriate in certain situations, like when there is a police car driving alongside a driver. Finally, the judge noted that driving next to another car believed to be involved in criminal activity is not suspicious.
Taking traffic stops seriously
Drug offenses in Tennessee often stem from traffic stops, so it is important to understand that you have rights in these situations. Discussing the case with an attorney can be crucial in understanding your legal options.