Flashing Lights – part 3

Published by T. J. Holmes on Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm.

OK, OK.  I was driving a red 2012 Maserati GranCabrio Sport convertible.

I guess I was just begging to be pulled over.  Of course, that’s a ridiculous assertion.  Almost as ridiculous as the very idea of me owning a Maserati.  Really, what difference does it or should it make what I was driving? [a Maserati or a Camry...]

What you should know is that officers have broad authority and discretion when deciding to pull someone over, and they should in order to do their jobs.   They can pull you over for speeding, swerving, a busted taillight,  a smoky tailpipe, whatever.  They only have to have a suspicion of criminal activity, a traffic infraction, or that the car is not in good condition.  The suspicion has to be based on more than a “hunch” but it doesn’t necessarily have to be hard evidence either.  They can pull you over for just about any reason, but they can’t pull you over for NO reason.

Officers have to have what’s called reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime or violation is being committed.  This can be anything, but has to be something.  Officers generally can’t randomly stop drivers to check to see if you’re doing something wrong, rather the suspicion that you’ve done something wrong has to come first.

If you get stopped, cooperate. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the stop, don’t make matters worse by being belligerent.  Remember, at this moment, the officer has the law on his side and a gun on his hip.  You WILL lose this battle.

The only time to fight back is after the fact.  In my case, I sent letters of inquiry seeking clarity and, if needs be, an investigation.  I also placed a call to the department and asked about their policy regarding stops for “insurance” checks. The officer I spoke to wasn’t aware of such checks.

In the midst of your frustration sitting on the side of the road with flashing lights behind you, it’s hard to think, “just wait until I send my letter to your boss!”  Doesn’t seem so fulfilling, I know, but fighting back after the fact is really your only recourse.

The overwhelming majority of police officers are good folks trying to do a good job.  But, bias can sometimes creeps in.  So, here’s a real conundrum: how do you give an officer the benefit of the doubt when you’re on the side of the road believing he didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt?

What you look like and what you’re driving shouldn’t matter.  Still, many believe it often does, so I understand why people want to know what kind of car I was driving.  It was a nice one.  Let’s just leave it at that.

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