What is a valid reason to stop your car?

Before pulling you over, police must have a solid reason that holds up in court. They cannot conduct random traffic stops.

Many people instinctively hit the brakes when they see a police car and worry about seeing the lights come on, as if the police are the final authority on Florida's highways. They do have authority, but that does not mean they can pull anyone over.

Illegal stops

In fact, a traffic stop that gets conducted without probable cause may be illegal, even if it does reveal illegal activity. For instance, if police pull you over for no reason and then discover open alcohol containers in your car, showing that you have been drinking behind the wheel, you may be able to argue that the evidence they gathered was illegal in its own right since that traffic stop should never have occurred.

So, what are some valid reasons to pull your car over? A few of them include:

  1. Driving faster than the posted speed limit, even if you're not exceeding it by much.
  2. Driving erratically and dangerously, so that it looks like you do not have control over your car.
  3. In the future, texting and driving may also warrant a stop. It's not a primary offense yet, but the House backed a bill earlier this year that would make it one. All drivers must be aware of this bill's progress.
  4. Driving with illegal or broken equipment. For instance, if your headlights are out and you drive at night, you could get pulled over.
  5. Changing lanes illegally. This could include changing lanes without signalling or crossing solid lines.
  6. Tailgating the car ahead of you. Many drivers think that driving within a car length or two of the next vehicle is safe, but they really need to give those cars more space.
  7. Refusing to leave the left lane on a multi-lane road. You are only supposed to use the left lane to pass, and you should typically stay in the right lane as much as possible so you do not force others to pass on the right.
  8. Going far under the speed limit. You may feel that it's safer, but it's actually a fairly serious traffic hazard. Try to stay with the flow of traffic.
  9. Not wearing your seat belt. It's for your own safety, and it must stay on at all times.
  10. Driving as if you are drunk, even when you're not. For instance, you may get pulled over for driving in two lanes, swerving, almost crashing into another car or driving erratically. If the officer has a reason to believe you have been drinking, he or she can initiate a stop to check.

Did you get pulled over without probable cause? Were your rights violated? Make sure you know your legal options.

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