Can I be pulled over by police for going under the speed limit in Davis County?
It is common for police to stop a driver for going faster than the posted speed limit. But there are circumstances where Utah law does allow an officer to pull you over for driving more slowly than the posted limit. This is rare. But if you have been arrested based on information and evidence obtained by police after you were stopped for driving too slowly, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Utah criminal lawyer Stephen Howard provides legal services to clients in Davis County and throughout Utah. He has handled thousands of serious felony and misdemeanor cases for clients during his career. Contact us today to see how we can help you.
What is the basis for a police stop when the driver is going under the speed limit?
Driving under the speed limit is not, by itself, a crime. In theory, the posted speed limit serves as prima facie evidence of the maximum safe speed at which a driver may operate a motor vehicle on a given road. Going more slowly than that maximum safe speed is not, by itself, a crime.
In order to justify pulling a driver over for going too slowly, a police officer must be able to articulate a set of facts that give rise to a reasonable suspicion of some crime. Driving so slowly that you are impeding the normal flow of traffic can form the basis for a traffic citation. But if slow speed by itself is not impeding traffic, a police officer may still be able to articulate grounds sufficient to justify stopping a slow driver.
Absent some specific traffic violation, a police officer must be able to connect the slow driving to a reasonable suspicion of some other crime. For example, if police have received reports that occupants of a white sedan (make and model unknown) are breaking into vehicles late at night in a specific neighborhood, and an officer observes a white Honda Accord driving slowly passed other parked cars while a passenger peers out the window into the parked car, a police officer could argue that these facts supported a reasonable suspicion that the occupants of this vehicle may be involved in the vehicle burglaries.
Does it matter whether the police officer’s suspicion turns out to be false?
In order to support a stop of a vehicle under a Fourth Amendment analysis, police do not have to prove that their suspicion was accurate. Instead, police only have to demonstrate that the observed facts could reasonably support their suspicion that criminal activity was occurring or was about to occur.
In the example above, it is possible that the occupants of the white Honda were engaging in lawful activities and that the individuals who were breaking into vehicles were actually driving a white Toyota Camry. The mere fact that the police officer’s suspicion turned out to be wrong does not necessarily invalidate any stop, search, or seizure. The courts look at whether the officer’s actions were reasonable at the time of inception, even if the suspicion turned out to be wrong.
What limits are on the police officer after I am pulled over?
Any traffic stop made by police must be limited in both scope and time. The limits that are placed on a police officer will initially depend on the reason for which you were pulled over. But those limits may be expanded depending on what other information or evidence the officer discovers (and how it is discovered) following the initial stop.
When making a basic traffic stop, police are generally limited to requesting driver and vehicle information. If all appears to be in order, the police should promptly issue a citation and should generally send the driver on his or her way. Unless an extension in scope is justified on some other factual grounds, a police officer should not ask investigative questions not directly related to the initial purpose of the traffic stop, nor should the officer engage in conduct intended to extend the duration of the stop.
If the officer has stopped a vehicle based on a reasonable suspicion that the occupants of the vehicle are involved in other criminal activity, the scope of the officer’s conduct should be limited to what is reasonably necessary to either confirm or dispel the suspicion.|
For example, if police had received a report that two tall, bald men with facial tattoos were driving a white sedan and breaking into cars, but when the police pulled over the white Honda they found two short females with long hair, it would be hard to justify further detention for investigatory purposes. On the other hand, if the white Honda was occupied by two tall, bald men with facial tattoos, the officer would likely be justified in asking these individuals a few questions to determine whether they had been involved in the vehicle burglaries. If, upon stopping the white Honda and finding suspects matching the two men described by witnesses, the officer also observed in plain view in the back seat items that matched the descriptions of the property reportedly stolen in the other vehicle burglaries, the initial investigatory stop could quickly turn into an arrest.
What happens if a police officer exceeds the limits on scope or duration?
Evidence obtained by police in violation of the Fourth Amendment may be subject to a motion to suppress. If such a motion is successful, a court may order that any such evidence be suppressed or excluded at trial. In some instances, suppression of evidence may result in a complete dismissal of the criminal case. In other situations, a prosecutor may still have other evidence sufficient to support the charges.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Davis County
Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can be critical. Serving clients in Davis County and throughout Utah, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has defended clients in thousands of serious felony and misdemeanor cases in Utah. His record of success includes some of the most serious criminal charges on the books in Utah.
Contact us today to see how we can help you.