This scenario is familiar to many Maryland residents: You’re driving on city streets or a highway and suddenly stopped for an alleged traffic offense. The police search your car and find marijuana or another legal drug stowed in your glove compartment or somewhere else in your vehicle. You’re not high, but you are arrested nevertheless.
What is a pretextual traffic stop?
Law enforcement officers initiate pretextual traffic stops for a minor offense to purposely investigate or search for evidence of another or unrelated crime. In many cases, their true intention is to search your vehicle for liquor or substances that can lead to drug charges. They are controversial because many believe this action involves racial profiling or unfairly targets drivers in low-income areas.
Although the Supreme Court declared these stops legal if an officer presents a defined violation, they rarely turn up anything illegal and fail to reduce crime. Even more problematic is that pretextual traffic stops often occur when law enforcement officers kill the targeted driver. Even when the officer lets the driver go, that individual usually suffers significant psychological damage. Those who go to jail can face a lifetime of educational, housing and employment discrimination.
Defending a pretextual traffic stop
Although you need to take drug charges seriously, you can still mount a solid defense against them if they emanate from a pretextual traffic stop. When racial profiling is involved, these incidents can escalate to police brutality when the driver views the stop as unfair. If you are stopped and arrested, you should attempt to provide as little information as possible to the law enforcement agency. Doing so can help preserve your rights and present a solid defense. Fighting back will only exacerbate the situation.
Drivers facing drug charges resulting from a traffic stop should realize that police do not have endless powers. Proving that law enforcement had no reason to stop you is crucial to your defense. If the court finds that the officer had no reason to pull you over, your case may be thrown out.