Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Utah
Call Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah
Call Utah Criminal Lawyer
Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers / Former Prosecutors
Call 801-449-1409 now to see what the right attorney can do for you.
Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer Salt Lake City

Criminal Defense Solutions Start HereSM

Finding a Felony Defense LawyerChoosing a Misdemeanor Defense LawyerDrug and Alcohol Crimes Defense LawyerWhite Collar Defense Attorney for Utah ChargesAttorney for Expungements Reductions and PardonsDefendant Constitutional Rights Criminal LawyerBail and Bond Alternatives in UtahReasons for Hope Facing Criminal Charges

Utah Search and Seizure

Can I beat a DUI charge or drug possession charge on a "pretext stop" in Utah?

Short history lesson here: Up until the 1990's, Utah DUI defense and drug crimes attorneys could get a lot of mileage out of the idea of a "pretext stop." The idea was that if a police officer used a very minor traffic violation as a "pretext" to pull a driver over, but the officer's real purpose was to investigate some other crime, then a motion to suppress could be filed to keep out any evidence that the officer had found as a result of this "pretext stop." It was a good idea, and it worked well . . . for a while.

Finding Best DUI Attorney for YouThe "pretext stop" analysis formerly engaged in by Utah courts and some federal courts looked at whether a reasonable Utah police officer would have pulled a driver over for the kind of traffic violation involved. For example, there are very few officers who ordinarily pull drivers over for going one mph over the speed limit. But if an officer saw a vehicle and driver that matched a "profile" of a typical drug dealer, or saw a vehicle just pulling out from a bar's parking lot, then the officer might be inclined to go out of his way to pull the driver over for going just one mph too fast. On the theory that the stop was based on an improper police motive to get into the car to search for drugs, and the traffic violation was used merely as a "pretext" for allowing the officer to search the car, the court could suppress any evidence found during the resulting search. Once the evidence was suppressed, the entire case would usually be dismissed.

But that was then, and this is now. The "pretext stop" doctrine was overturned in Utah by the Utah Supreme Court's decision in State v. Lopez, 873 P.2d 1127 (Utah 1994). Two years later, the United States Supreme Court also rejected the pretext-stop doctrine in Whren v. United States, 517 U.S 806, 135 L.Ed.2d 89, 116 S.Ct. 1769 (1996). Materials are still available on the internet that discuss how to use a pretext stop to win a criminal case. These materials typically are from outdated sources, or have been posted by individuals who have not kept up with changes in the law.

Under current caselaw, a police officer may be constitutionally justified in stopping a vehicle even for minor violations of the traffic code. But there the Fourth Amendment still places limits on how far an officer may extend the scope of the stop. If a driver is stopped for a minor traffic violation, an officer does not have automatic grounds for searching the vehicle or even for questioning the driver about other possible violations or crimes.

Finding the Best Attorney for Your Case

There is no single "best" attorney in Utah. But finding the attorney who is the best match for your case is important.

If you have been charged with a crime in Utah, it is important to speak to an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney regarding your rights. Stephen Howard has defended literally thousands of serious felony and misdemeanor crimes during his career. His track record speaks for itself.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with Salt Lake City defense attorney Stephen Howard.


Best Rating
Make a Payment to Your Account
Get Help Now
Name: Email: Phone: Describe your legal needs here:
I accept the disclaimer below.
Disclaimer: No attorney-client relationship is established by the use of this form. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be submitted through this form. By clicking 'submit' I am only requesting that I be contacted for the purpose of obtaining legal services.

This form protected by reCAPTCHA.

  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense Trial AttorneyNot Guilty - Client was charged with aggravated assault for alleged attack using broken bottle as a weapon. Despite the testimony of numerous prosecution witnesses, thorough defense investigation to support a self-defense claim resulted in acquittal by jury at trial.
  • Criminal Appeals Defense AttorneyDismissed on Appeal - DUI case was dismissed after a successful appeal where the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defense motion to suppress. Without the suppressed evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the case was dismissed.
  • Utah Expungement Lawyer Expunged - Client with prior conviction for violent felony was ineligible for expungement through the courts. A successful 2-step reduction restored expungement eligibility and ultimately led to the court's decision to grant the requested expungement.
  • Utah Burglary Attorney Dismissal - Client was charged with first-degree felony home burglary and facing potential life in prison. Defense analysis revealed flaws in prosecutor's case which led to abeyance agreement intended to lead to a full dismissal of the case.
  • Recent Posts
  • What to Do When Arrested for DUI What should I do if I am arrested for DUI? - Many DUI cases begin as minor traffic stops. But the consequences of a DUI conviction are much more serious than an ordinary traffic citation. If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI, you have specific important constitutional and statutory rights that can protect your. . . .
  • Utah Statewide Warrant Search How do I find out if I have an outstanding warrant? - If you believe you may have an outstanding arrest warrant in Utah, a criminal defense attorney can access the Utah statewide warrant system and help you find the best. . . .
Best Criminal Defense Strategy

Aggressive is good. Effective is better. The best defense strategy in any given criminal case can require in-depth analysis of the facts and a thorough understanding of applicable statutes, case law, and complex procedural and evidentiary rules. Having an experienced attorney on your side....

Strategy »
Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

Finding the right criminal defense lawyer for you Utah criminal case will be one of the most important decision you make. Before hiring any lawyer, there are a number of important factors to consider. The person you select as your criminal defense attorney will be responsible to defend your case and protect your rights....

Experience »
Conviction Consequences in Utah Criminal Prosecutions

Even a single misdemeanor conviction in Utah can result in extended jail time and substantial fines. The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can last a lifetime. Whether you are facing misdemeanor prosecution in a justice court or more serious felony charges in the district court, obtaining advice and assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney is....

Consequences »
Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Reasons to Hope

Never give up hope. Being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted. And it is usually not the end of the world. While the consequences of a criminal charge can be serious, there are often several options and strategies for handling your case. Understanding your options and how an experienced criminal lawyer can help....

Reasons to Hope »
Home | Attorney Profile | Case Results | Criminal Code | FAQ | Legal Resources | Defense Strategy | Contact Us

Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

The materials in this website are intended for informational purposes only, and are not legal advice. Viewing or responding to materials in this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Read Full Disclaimer.