It’s not hard for police to justify a traffic stop. There are a host of potential traffic violations, and chances are, you’ve violated at least one of them.
But not in every case.
A recent Illinois Appellate case found that a driver had not in fact violated the letter of the law. In People v Gonzalez-Carrera, the court struck down a traffic stop based on a defective tail light. The Defendant was charged with “driving with one red tail light” because of a hole allowing white light to shine through the other light. Police subsequently discovered a controlled substance in the car, charging Defendant with possession with intent to deliver.
The Court looked carefully at the wording of the tail light law. Drivers are required to have two red tail lights turned on from sunset to sunrise, during rain, fog or snow, or when visibility is less than 1000 feet. However, none of these conditions applied at the time Defendant was stopped. Therefore, Defendant wasn’t violating the law, and the police stop was no longer valid.
The above case underscores the importance of carefully examining the facts of each case. If you are charged with a crime involving a traffic stop, an experienced criminal or DUI attorney can review your situation for the best possible defense. If police lacked probable cause to stop you, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to suppress any evidence resulting from the illegal stop.
If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2015): A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision muddies the waters. The Supreme Court recently upheld a traffic stop where the officer mistakenly understood a North Carolina law to require two working brake lights. The law, however, was subject to varying interpretations, and the Court said its decision to uphold the officer only applied to reasonable mistakes of law. See Helen v North Carolina.
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)