Many drug-related charges stem from traffic stops. A traffic stop gives police the opportunity to speak with people, gauge their physical responses and take a look inside a vehicle while someone is caught off guard, which police can take advantage of.
However, these stops do not give police free reign to do whatever they want and look wherever they please. In fact, there are a few common ways police might violate your rights or fail to comply with proper procedure during a traffic stop that can ultimately lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges, including drug-related offenses.
Initiating the stop
Police must have reason to believe you broke the law in order to pull you over. They cannot stop drivers for no reason or for profiling reasons. However, keep in mind that any minor issue can warrant reasonable suspicion, from a burned-out license plate light to making a turn without signaling. Drivers can also be stopped if their car matches the description of a car involved in a crime.
Conducting a search
You are protected from unlawful searches during a traffic stop. However, Virginia officers conduct searches all the time during a stop. It is crucial to examine whether police had the right to search a car and whether the search was conducted properly. If police violated your rights during a search or conducted an illegal search, then the courts can dismiss any evidence collected as a result.
Making an arrest
There are very strict rules regarding arrest procedures and detainment, but they can vary from case to case. Depending on the details of a specific stop, police may or may not handcuff you, read you your Miranda rights or use force. These actions are not carried out the same way in every situation, so you would be wise to comb through the course of events very carefully with an attorney.
Of course, you should thoroughly examine every aspect of a traffic stop leading to criminal charges with the help of an experienced defense attorney. However, these are three areas in particular where police might stray from procedure in the interest of making an arrest, even if it violates a person's rights.