Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Utah
Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Howard
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.
  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client was facing multiple cases involving first-degree felony drug distribution charges for allegedly selling to a confidential informant. Defense analysis of the case revealed fatal flaws in the prosecution case that ultimately resulted in a complete dismissal of all cases and charges.
  • 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.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahDismissed at Preliminary Hearing - Client charged with aggravated robbery and facing life in prison. Full case analysis and consultation with client allowed the development of a strong defense strategy. Effective cross-examination of the alleged victim at the preliminary hearing resulted in an outright dismissal of all charges by the judge.
  • Recent Posts
  • What Constitutes Drug Parpahernalia in Utah How is drug paraphernalia defined in Utah? - The definition of drug paraphernalia under the Utah criminal code looks at both the nature of the object and also the intended use of the object in question. . . .
  • Utah Misdemeanor Attorney Salt Lake Can I handle a Utah misdemeanor from out-of-state? - Even if you do not intend to take your case to trial, a misdemeanor criminal offense in Utah can require multiple court appearances to reach a resolution. If you have been charged with a crime in Utah, but are not a Utah resident, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you resolve the case without returning to the state. . . .
Best Criminal Defense Strategy

The best outcome is more likely when the right strategy is employed. Developing the best strategy can require real courtroom experience, a thorough understanding of procedural and substantive legal issues, and a determination to ensure that important constitutional and other legal rights are protected. Choosing the right attorney....

Strategy »
Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

With decades of combined experience, our criminal defense team attorneys have the knowledge, skill, and determination to help you achieve the results you need. Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can have serious consequences. Choosing the best attorney to defend your case may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make....

Experience »
Conviction Consequences - Utah Criminal Defense

Even a "minor" misdemeanor carries the potential for jail time and significant fines. The direct penalties and collateral consequences of a felony conviction are even more severe. Understanding these consequences is critical as you make decisions relating to your case. Even in a misdemeanor case, you should not....

Consequences »
Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah - Reasons to Hope

Clients sometimes ask what the "worst case scenario" is for their charges. We prefer to take a more positive approach. Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can have serious consequences. But you can take steps and make choices right now that will improve your chances of a positive outcome. Let us help you....

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.