Traffic Stops

Can The Police Pull Me Over For Speeding And Arrest Me For A Drug Crime?

Many traffic stops are because the driver ran a red light, a stop sign, or otherwise committed some type of safe movement violation. In a run-of-the-mill stop, violations are punished with a verbal warning, written warning or citation to appear in court or pay a fine.

But traffic stops also lead to serious charges, including federal offenses like drug sale or trafficking.

What Is a Pretext Traffic Stop?

In the 1996 case of Whren v. United States, police officers followed a vehicle out of a "high drug area" and found the pretext they needed to initiate a traffic stop and investigate when the driver turned right without signaling. The driver and passenger were arrested for violating various federal drug laws.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Whren held that it is generally permissible for a police officer to initiate a traffic stop against a driver for committing any type of traffic violation, however minor, even if the stop was made because the officer suspected the driver of committing some other type of non-traffic-related offense (like drug possession).

Pretext traffic stops, in other words, do not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, even if the officer follows the driver for 20 miles, waiting for the pretext he needs to initiate the stop.

When Federal Agents Have Local Cops Pull You Over

Closely related to "ordinary" pretext traffic stops is the federal agent's practice of requesting state or local cops to initiate traffic stops of drivers suspected of committing federal offenses.

In these cases, federal agents do not have the authority to initiate a traffic stop or make an arrest, but can use local police to pull the driver over based on pretext. Once the driver is pulled over, federal agents conduct an investigation and gather evidence with the help of local police — and you may not even be aware of it.

What Next?

If you a traffic stop against you has resulted in federal charges, you may have legal grounds to challenge the stop, challenge the arrest, and challenge any evidence that was collected. You have rights at all times and a lawyer can help you assert those rights. Request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts at 800-760-9071 or contact Patrick Roberts by email. Roberts Law Group, PLLC is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.