Why Did You Get Pulled Over?

Understanding the Basis for a Traffic Stop

One of the most common questions we see in cases involving traffic stops is, “Why did I get pulled over?”  You may think, “it’s because I had a nice car,” or “it’s because of the area of town I was in.”  Well, that is certainly possible, but if that is the only reason or reasons, that may be an illegal traffic stop.


When does an officer have a basis to pull someone over?  In legal terms, the test is this:  “is there reasonable suspicion based upon specific and articulable facts to believe a crime has been or is being committed?”  In everyday terms, this means:  “can the officer specifically explain why it is believed the driver (or occupant) of the vehicle has committed or is committing a crime?”  Not a hunch or guess.  Rather, explain specifically.


In many cases, an entire defense may hinge on the basis of a traffic stop.  For example, was there a light law violation; failure to use a blinker; was there a brake light out; was there a headlight out; was the vehicle swerving; and, the list goes on and on.


So, to clarify, you may be in a nice car.  You may be in the “wrong” area.  These facts alone should not be the only bases to make a traffic stop.  There must be more.  There must be a specific explanation as to why the officer believes a crime has been or is being committed.  

Tommy Santel is a co-founding partner of Parkerson Santel PLLC. Tommy is a former government prosecutor. He is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Tommy’s practice areas include criminal defense and civil litigation.

This blog is made available by Parkerson Santel, PLLC for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a general overview of the law, not provide specific legal advice. By using this blog and website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Parkerson Santel, PLLC. This blog and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.

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