In Florida, many criminal arrests start out with a much less serious traffic stop. When a person commits a traffic violation like speeding or running a red light, he/she is normally just looking at a fine and possibly some points on his/her driving record. However, when the police stop a person for a traffic violation, it can turn into a much more serious criminal violation. Most DUI’s and many drug cases start with traffic stops and turn into criminal investigations followed by arrests.
There are many different traffic violations that a police officer can use to stop a driver to write a traffic citation or as an excuse to investigate criminal activity. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the driver came to a stop sign and instead of stopping behind that stop bar line that is at most stop signs, the driver stopped just past it so that part of the front tire and hood were in front of the stop bar. Seeing this, the police officer stopped the driver for running the stop sign. When the police officer approached the car to write the traffic ticket, he said he smelled marijuana inside the vehicle. The police officer ultimately arrested both the driver and passenger for marijuana and cocaine possession charges.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs arguing that the driver did not truly violate a traffic law. if the original basis for the stop is not valid, than any evidence the police officer discovered as a result of the initial traffic stop should be thrown out of court.
The court disagreed with the criminal defense attorney. The court interpreted the traffic law to require a driver to stop at the stop line which means the driver must stop when the front bumper reaches the stop line. Since this driver drove the front of his car past the stop line, it was a violation of the stop sign statute. That gave the police officer the right to make a traffic stop which gave the police officer a right to investigate the criminal activity upon noticing the evidence of drugs in the vehicle.