Arrests Accompanied by Minor Traffic Violations

Many individuals arrested in Utah are first pulled over for avoidable traffic violations.

A felony with an infraction on the side

If someone makes a driving error in the presence of a police officer they will usually get pulled over and issued a warning or a ticket. Once stopped by police for a minor traffic violation, police may then find valid reasons to arrest the driver. Police booking reports around the state show a pattern of criminal charges accompanied by infractions from simple traffic stops. Some common examples seen include:

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• An individual arrested for a DUI while also being listed as having an infraction such as speeding.

• Someone charged with drug possession along with an infraction for not signaling while switching lanes or turning.

• A driver arrested for a weapons charge and a minor charge for no license plate light.

• Another person with warrants who is also charged with not fully stopping at a stop sign.

Happenstance or a planned stop

When someone is pulled over for a traffic stop, sometimes the officer has no idea the person was or is in the process of committing crimes likely to lead to an arrest. Other times however, the office may have a hunch about a driver and tails their car until they make a mistake, at which point the officer has a reason to pull them over to follow up on their gut feeling.

Possible profiling

If someone is followed by police prior to being pulled over for a traffic violation, it may feel unfair to the driver and depending on the circumstances, could be considered a form of profiling. Anyone facing criminal charges following a traffic stop is encouraged to seek legal counsel. If concerns arise regarding possible profiling or violations of constitutional rights, an experience defense attorney will know best how to handle the legal proceedings.

Pulled Over without Reasonable Suspicion of a Crime

It’s a common misconception that someone will not be pulled over by police unless they give law enforcement reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation or crime is or has been committed.

Traffic stop

Reasonable Suspicion

Photo by: Matty Ring

According to the Prosecution Manual listed by the State of Utah, “in order to stop a motor vehicle, an officer must have [reasonable suspicion] that a public offense is occurring or has occurred. There are many legitimate reasons for such a stop which include, but are not limited to suspicious activity, traffic violations, and equipment violations.” Some of the most common reasons that a driver in Utah may be pulled over include:

• Speeding;
• Driving too slow;
• Failure to signal lane change;
• Broken headlights, brake lights, or other equipment issues;
• Distracted driving (phone, food, etc);
• Aggressive/hazardous driving;
• Following too close;
• Seat belt violations;
• Expired tags; or
• Suspicious behavior such as visible drug or alcohol use.

Drivers will usually avoid being pulled over as long as they refrain from giving law enforcement one of the above reasons to execute a traffic stop. There are some instances however when law enforcement does not need reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle.

Reasonable suspicion not needed

Section 6.4 of the State of Utah’s Prosecution Manual states that “there are times and situations when reasonable suspicion is not necessary for an officer to approach a vehicle or begin an investigation. ( . . . ).” One of the examples given is:

• If an officer happens upon a vehicle that is already stopped or disabled.

Other possible loopholes around an officer having reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle include:

• During an Amber Alert when police are permitted to pull over all vehicle in the area of the Amber Alert to search for a missing child;
• If the vehicle matches the description of another that was used in a crime or that was involved in an accident; or
• If an officer misunderstands a law but had reasonable suspicion based on their faulty interpretation of said law. (Heien v. North Carolina)

Legal counsel

Photo by: Keith Allison

Criminal charges not related to traffic violations may result if a driver is pulled over in Utah. These charges can stem from behavior or crimes that may have gone unnoticed had the traffic stop not taken place such as if the driver was in possession of drugs, was driving under the influence, or had warrants out for their arrest. Any drivers in Utah who are facing criminal charges following a questionable traffic stop are encouraged to speak to a qualified defense attorney to ensure that their constitutional rights have not been violated.

Prevent Holiday Road Rage – Drivers Cautioned to be Courteous

Drivers who are out shopping for gifts or traveling for the upcoming holidays are cautioned to be extra courteous in an attempt to prevent road rage incidents that can spike this time of year.

Stressful countdown to Christmas

Road Rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

As we enter the last week of shopping before Christmas, those who have left some or all of their holiday shopping until now are probably feeling the crunch as the days left to buy gifts enters the single digits. As these late shoppers weed through what is left of picked over gifts and navigate through the crowded stores, the tension can continue to build, leading to increase in stress and road rage incidents once they hit the road.

Increased traffic, decreased time

With these stressed out holiday shoppers abound, poor weather, and an increase in out of town visitors who are unfamiliar with Utah roads, traffic can quickly become congested which leads to aggressive drivers with short fuses. All it takes is someone not using a blinker or cutting another driver off to quickly send a fellow driver over the edge and for road rage to take place.

Prevent holiday road rage

As road rage claims another victim, a 3 year old boy in Arkansas, authorities are cautioning drivers to be courteous and take steps to lower stress levels while driving. Drivers are encouraged to:

• Plan on extra time for travel. Whether traveling, shopping, or merely trying to get to school or work on time, drivers should give themselves a little extra time to navigate through holiday traffic.

• Practice calming techniques. If sitting in traffic makes a driver’s blood boil, drivers should practice techniques such as deep breathing, listening to peaceful music, or self-coaching to decrease their tension while behind the wheel.

• Do not retaliate. If another driver is being aggressive, don’t try to get revenge for their behavior. Refrain from slamming on the brakes for tailgaters or displaying offensive hand gestures when another driver shows hostile behavior. Retaliating will never help in times like these, and can quickly lead to road rage.

By following the above suggestions, the instances of road rage can be reduced dramatically. Any driver who is facing charges related to road rage should seek the counsel of a criminal defense attorney.