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San Diego: 619-381-4859

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When Can a Police Officer Pull You Over for a Crime in California?

Posted on Apr 17th, 2023 by Super User 1295 Views

Flashing lights and blaring sirens are never something drivers wish to see or hear behind them while driving. The reality, nevertheless, is that most drivers have been stopped by traffic police at some point. Recognizing the common reasons California motorists get pulled over could help you safeguard yourself to avoid being pulled over and falling into other major legal problems. This blog discusses actions that could cause a police officer to pull you over for a crime.


Police officers often stop motorists for speeding-related offenses. Countrywide studies of law enforcement officers have revealed that reducing excessive speeding has become a priority for departments across the country.

Speed restrictions aren't put in place randomly, and driving over them puts you at risk of being stopped. They are created with a focus on safety, and police are strongly motivated to write speeding citations since there are approximately a dozen fewer vehicle crashes as well as five lesser injuries sustained in car wrecks every month for each hundred speeding tickets issued.

Speeding could also result in tragic accidents and considerable property damage, and it's simple for police to notice speeding drivers.

Being pulled over for overspeeding in California could also lead to reasonable grounds for other claims, such as driving under the influence or having controlled substances in the vehicle.

It is always a good idea to keep an eye out for the given speed signs around the region where you are driving. Additionally, it is important to keep your speed within a reasonable range for both your safety and to reduce the likelihood of being in this predicament. Avoiding a California traffic stop is hard, so be prepared to handle the situation professionally when it arises.

Inappropriate Lane Changes

When you change lanes without paying attention or cut off other cars, you place the other motorists on the road in a potentially dangerous situation. These risky actions can result in catastrophic car accidents since they give the other motorist little or no room to respond, reducing their ability to avoid collisions. Additionally, when passing another vehicle, only do so in designated passing zones.

For instance, you're not allowed to overtake other vehicles safely when there are firm yellow lines on either side of the roadway and, more importantly, if there aren't any passing signs visible.

If you're going to be driving slowly, you should probably stick to the right-hand lane and only switch across to the left-hand lane when overtaking. Not using turn signals could also result in traffic stops, though it usually isn't a major enough offense to necessitate a complete stop.

Equipment Violations

Police officers could stop you for a simple equipment violation if your headlights are out, your windshield is damaged, your license plate is missing, or the tint on your windows is too dark.

Because of the speed and ease with which these violations can be detected from a distance, offenders can be singled out for the issuance of citations and fines. The consequences for these additional infractions can be severe, especially if the registration is out of date, when you're driving while inebriated, or when you haven't updated your driving license on time.

Risky Driving, Such As Tailgating

Although it's common in California, tailgating—also called following too closely—is prohibited under California VC 21703. Because this portion of the laws is so broad, law enforcement officers have a lot of leeways when pulling you over. According to the rules of the road, you need to leave one car length, or about 15 feet, between your car and the one in front of you for each mile per hour you are driving.

Oddly, that does seem disproportionate when you consider how the highway appears when it's rush hour. However, if you disregard this and trail the car ahead of you so closely, you risk being stopped and given a ticket. Because there are no foolproof means to calculate the precise distance between moving cars, the decision is left to the discretion of the officer.

However, keep in mind that if you're going 45 miles per hour and are trailing the car that is ahead of you by around two car widths, the police will see this and pull you over regardless of whether or not you have the precise footage.

Officers could also accuse you of engaging in other risky driving behaviors, including disrupting a pattern, unexpected speeding or veering, or failure to obey a stop sign. These are all examples of actions that could lead to being pulled over.

Driving Too Slow

Most often, people are always in a hurry to get somewhere. As a result, it is very suspicious whenever a police officer observes a vehicle moving at a speed that is well below the limit. They could assume that there's something wrong, that you're intoxicated or high, or any other range of possible issues.

It's also against the law to move too slowly on certain roads, especially on highways.

If you are driving in the left-hand lane and traveling at 40 miles per hour in a zone where the speed limit is 70, you're placing other motorists at risk. When a car is coming up behind you or changing lanes, the additional 30 miles per hour might not be taken into account, which can make the driver erratic.

It's a peculiar law since, contrary to what you could expect on some roads, going slower does not necessarily make you any safer.

Drunk Driving or Littering

Law enforcers could use this as probable cause to pull an individual over if they have reason to believe they were driving while drunk or recklessly threw rubbish from their vehicle. Since driving under the influence has major repercussions, this could be one of the significant effects of a traffic stop.

When you are pulled over, an experienced attorney can be quite helpful. This is especially true if you consider that the law enforcer took too much discretion with the current laws.

Officers could use any one of the reasons stated above to argue that this was the major reason they stopped you. You should consult your attorney as soon as possible if you feel your constitutional rights were infringed upon or if any other mistakes were made.

Use of Cell Phones

Cell phone usage is a significant factor in traffic stops, whether it involves making calls, using GPS, or sending texts and emails. No matter which state you're driving in, it's never a smart idea to operate a cell phone while driving because the laws vary by jurisdiction. Distracted driving practices like swerving and changing lanes improperly are the primary reasons why law enforcement officers issue tickets for texting while driving.

Improper Use of The Left Lane

You should not drive in the left lane except when you're overtaking another vehicle. That's the only justification for using the left lane, which is solely for overtaking. It has become a lane for individuals who want to move faster, although that wasn't its intended purpose. Keep to the right lane unless you need to make an upcoming turn or are overtaking someone in that lane.

The left lane is closer to the approaching left lane, and these lanes are designed to remain open unless necessary to keep all motorists safe. If you're the only vehicle on the roadway and have been traveling in the left lane for some time, even at the mandated speed limit, it offers law enforcement officers a justification to at least be aware of you. And if you want to avoid getting pulled over altogether, you would prefer not to be noticed for any specific purpose.

Not Wearing a Seatbelt

If you don't click, you'll get a ticket. Nothing is more stressful than getting pulled over and having the law enforcement officer explain that you weren't wearing your seatbelt, even if you had no idea why you were being stopped in the first place. Additionally, the related fines are often very high.

Therefore, make sure to protect yourself if you don't want to get a ticket for failing to do so. Put on your seatbelt, take care of yourself, and safeguard your hard-earned money. It only takes four seconds to fasten your seatbelt, which is preferable to brain injury or a $160 fine.

Questionable Conduct

When you're driving, there can be a lot going on in the vehicle that appears very different from other drivers. A cigarette can resemble a joint of marijuana, whereas a canned soda can resemble an alcoholic drink. Asking your young one to fetch something from the backseat could come off as enabling them to romp around the car unrestrained. Therefore, there are several factors to be mindful of, and while you could believe it was unfair that you were stopped over, the law enforcement officer's perspective was different.

Reasonable Suspicion

The phrases "reasonable suspicion" and " probable cause " are often used interchangeably. Nonetheless, there are two distinct requirements, with the reasonable suspicion standard being one that's less exacting. Reasonable suspicion is what is necessary for an officer of the law to initiate an investigative traffic stop.

Although probable cause can be utilized to justify traffic stops, it's not required. Rather, a standard of reasonable suspicion is applied per the US fourth amendment's limitations on unwarranted seizures and searches.

To conduct a traffic stop with reasonable suspicion, the officer must have concrete evidence of illegal activity. These details should also be unique to the specific stop. Compared to the amount or quality of evidence needed to demonstrate probable cause, a stop predicated on reasonable suspicion needs less proof.

Moreover, a law enforcement official can establish a reasonable suspicion without nearly as much rock-solid evidence. In essence, this standard states that any intrusion must be justified when the circumstances are considered in conjunction with reasonable conclusions drawn from the facts. Stopping a vehicle in a pedestrian stop and for an individual who could be armed to pat them down typically requires reasonable suspicion.

If a police officer has reasonable suspicion to suspect a traffic offense or criminal activity, they have the right to pull over the car. An investigative stop enables the police to discover why the person was acting in a certain way, like leaving their traffic lane.

A pause of any kind must, nevertheless, be transient. It shouldn't go further than is necessary to accomplish the stop's purpose. When conducting an investigation, the police officer should use the most non-intrusive measures possible to confirm or discount their suspicions quickly.

What Would Happen If the Officer Had No Probable Cause?

DUI cases have a higher stake than most cases, making them more susceptible to probable cause mistakes. It could be challenging to argue that the traffic ticket you received is unlawful on those counts alone, considering the lower threshold that an officer should meet to even stop a car in the first place.

If you believe the police officer did not have probable cause to stop you, you should discuss your complaints with a professional traffic ticket attorney. They can carry out the required investigation to ascertain if this is a convincing enough defense to spare you the negative effects of a traffic infraction on your record.

An officer should have reasonable suspicion, even if they were unaware of any traffic violations when they initially pulled you over. Evidence gathered against you could be withheld if there is no basis for a reasonable suspicion on their part. Assume you were stopped, and the officer found evidence of illicit drugs in your vehicle.

Your criminal defense attorney can contend that the officers involved had no grounds to pull you over in the first place if there's no justifiable suspicion to do so. The next steps in your criminal defense case would depend on whether you can get this evidence suppressed.

This would be handled by a defense lawyer who would file a petition to suppress. The attorney's task is to present evidence from the law and facts showing that the law enforcement officer was not authorized to have pulled your vehicle over in the first place.

The prosecution could fight against the move to suppress. This makes it even more crucial to have a criminal defense attorney who can defend your constitutional rights from the beginning because the entire case could be dropped.

How to Avoid Being Pulled Over

Most individuals are aware that they shouldn't drive while drunk. They are also aware that if they drive recklessly or show signs of impairment, an officer can stop them and question them about a possible DUI. You'll probably be stopped and interrogated by officers if you tailgate, veer across lanes, make hazardous lane changes, or engage in other similar activities.

Officers could also have good reason to stop you if you are driving in clear violation of the law. The best strategies for avoiding being stopped by police are to drive cautiously, obey traffic rules, and check that your car complies with all applicable state motor vehicle legislation.

Steps to Take If an Officer Pulls You Over

When you're driving down the road and see a law enforcement officer directing you to stop, you should do it safely and as soon as possible. When your car is parked by the roadside, switch off the engine, roll down the windows, and wait for the police officer to approach.

Before being instructed to do anything, avoid rummaging around or trying to find your driving license, registration, or anything else. If you do, the law enforcement officer would assume you're trying to conceal evidence or are reaching for a weapon.

When the officer approaches your car, they would probably ask if you know why you were stopped. If you don't, just say that you're unaware. It might be something simple like a faulty tail light. In such a situation, the officer could simply issue a "fix-it" citation and let you go. In most situations, speaking less is preferable. You don't want the police to unintentionally have reason to believe another unlawful activity was occurring based on your behavior or comments.

A competent criminal defense lawyer could contend that the police officer had no justification to stop you over, to begin with, if the law enforcement officer makes an illegal stop that results in an arrest. Any evidence gathered after the fact will not be admissible against you in court unless it can be demonstrated that the traffic stop infringed on your constitutional rights.

Find a Bail Bonds Service Near Me

Before being pulled over by the police, it is critical that you thoroughly grasp your responsibilities, rights, and practical concerns. Knowing this in advance will help guarantee that interactions with officers do not turn violent or endanger your rights. If you were detained after being stopped in Temecula, CA, and need bail bond services, you can contact Justice Bail Bonds. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide the bail bonds services you require. Call us today at 951-445-4155.

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For faster service please call 951-445-4155 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs. 

For faster service please call 951-445-4155 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs.