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Can Lawful Driving Be Grounds for a Traffic Stop?

In criminal defense, when we talk about "reasonable suspicion of criminal activity," we're talking about just that: reason to think that a crime has been committed. In the context of traffic stops, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.

The criminal defense attorneys of Kim & LaVoy, S.C., regularly defend clients accused of drunk driving in Wisconsin. In these cases, we often find that what a police officer claims is reasonable suspicion is not reasonable in the eyes of the law.

For example, sometimes police and prosecutors claim that a driver's lawful behavior somehow justified a traffic stop.

An officer might say in court that you were driving late at night, and this was somehow sufficient reason to pull you over. Or maybe you were driving below the posted speed limit, and the officer claims this was a good reason to stop you. Or maybe you were driving in a certain neighborhood, and the officer found that to be suspicious.

Taken together or individually, the actions of driving late at night, driving below the speed limit, and driving in a certain neighborhood are not illegal behaviors, and are therefore not in themselves legal grounds to pull you over.

As a society, one thing we don't want is for innocent behaviors like these to be seen as grounds for traffic stops, and judges will agree.

When a drunk driving charge results from an unlawful traffic stop, any evidence seized during the stop can be suppressed and the case dismissed by the judge. These things don't happen automatically, though. You can count on the prosecution to fight aggressively for a conviction, even if the evidence suggests that the traffic stop was illegal.

Bottom line: if you're accused of OWI in Wisconsin, then you have a lot to lose, and you should have the best OWI defense you can find.

The criminal defense lawyers of Kim & LaVoy, S.C., remain dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals accused of OWI in Waukesha, Brookfield and throughout southeastern Wisconsin. For an idea of the kind of work we do, please visit our Client Testimonials page.

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