When a police officer pulls over a motorist, the law requires that the officer must have a good reason for doing so. Whether the officer observed a traffic violation of some sort (talking on a cell-phone or speeding) or has other information regarding criminal activity, the officer must be able to articulate the reasons for the interference and cannot do so on a mere whim or gut feeling that something is awry. Take the case of a recent client at Foley Griffin, “KZ,” whose arrest and all evidence obtained thereafter was recently suppressed after a pre-trial hearing because the arresting officer did not have a legal right to approach KZ in the first place.
In short, the officer approached KZ’s car after KZ pulled behind the officer’s vehicle, which was stopped in the left-hand turning lane while the officer investigated another vehicle he had pulled over and stopped in front of the police car. KZ did so because he intended to make a left turn and was unsure what was happening in the lane in front of him. The lane was not shut down; no barricades or flares were present. According to the officer’s testimony, he approached KZ and demanded to see KZ’s license and registration because he felt it was “odd” that he was stopped in the turning lane behind the police car. The officer did not observe the KZ commit any traffic violations or exhibit any signs of intoxication or impairment before he approached the car and demanded the information. Upon the officer’s interaction with KZ, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Under a well-established principle in the law, an officer must justify the reasons he/she interfered with a private citizen and said reasons must amount to more than a gut-feeling or a mere whim. In KZ’s case, the officer could say nothing more than he/she found KZ’s actions in stopping behind his police vehicle “odd.” As such, the Court agreed that the officer did not possess the requisite elements to approach and demand KZ’s information. All evidence obtained thereafter was suppressed.
Having a Nassau County criminal defense attorney who knows what the legal standards are and how to apply them to the facts presented is tantamount to defending someone accused of a crime. In KZ’s case, the case was won before any evidence was presented to a jury at a trial. It was won because we at Foley Griffin are familiar with and prepared to argue the law each and every step of the way.