Dallas Criminal Lawyer Clarifies Supreme Court Ruling on Police Traffic Stops

Does a Recent Supreme Court Decision Allow Police to Stop You for No Reason, asks Dallas criminal lawyer John Helms. His explanation is important to know.

On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided a case called Utah v. Strieff. Some commentators have suggested that this decision means that police can stop drivers for no reason just to see if the driver has an outstanding arrest warrant.  I disagree with that, says Dallas criminal lawyer John Helms.

As an initial matter, the case has to do with whether the government can use evidence against someone that the police find after improperly stopping the person but after learning that the person already has an outstanding arrest warrant for something else.

The Supreme Court did not make the stop of the person legal.  It just said that, even if an officer improperly stops you, if the officer was essentially acting in good faith, and you have an outstanding arrest warrant, and the officer arrests you because of the arrest warrant, the government can use evidence of a separate crime that they find after the arrest, such as during a search of your car, explains Helms, a top Dallas criminal attorney.

In the Strieff case, the officer thought he had a legitimate reason for stopping the driver.  He had seen the driver coming out of a house that was being investigated for drug dealing where people would come in and leave shortly afterwards.  This was not enough to make the stop legal, but the officer thought it was, and it was close.  The officer then asked the driver for his name and ID, ran a check, and discovered an outstanding arrest warrant.  He then arrested the driver and found drugs in the car.  The way he found the drugs in the car was a legal way to inspect a car after an arrest.  The Supreme Court held that the driver could be charged with possession of the drugs found in the car even though the initial stop was illegal.

The case would have turned out differently if the police officer had not had a good faith basis for the stop.  If the officer had truly stopped the driver for no reason, or for an improper reason, such as racial profiling, Helms believes the Supreme Court would hold that the drugs could not be used to charge the driver with drug possession.

If you are stopped by the police, and they find evidence of a crime on your person or in your car, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in order to protect your rights.  The law in this area is very complicated, and the details of the situation can make a huge difference.  Also, many police officers are very good at coming up with credible-sounding explanations for why they stopped someone.  No police officer will admit, for example, that they did not have a legitimate reason to stop someone or that they were racially profiling.  It can take a very skilled lawyer to break down their explanations to show why they don’t hold up.

John Helms has over 20 years of experience in cross-examining witnesses of all kinds, including police officers, FBI agents, DEA agents, technical experts, and others who have been extensively coached on how to back up their stories.  That type of expertise is often essential to make sure you are protecting your rights.

If you have been charged with any crime, including drug possession, fraud, assault, theft or a federal drug crimes, call Dallas criminal lawyer John Helms at 214-666-8010 or visit his website.