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New law limits when police can pull drivers over

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2021 | Criminal Defense

There are many traffic laws that drivers in Virginia must follow. Most of these laws are designed to keep all drivers safe on the road. Drivers must obey speed limits, signal when they are turning, yield to other drivers in certain situations and other rules. Drivers are also responsible to ensure that the vehicle they are driving is in good repair. People need to ensure their headlights and brake lights work, that the brakes work properly and also that there are not objects in the car limiting their view out of the windows.

If people violate these types of laws, it could result in the person receiving a traffic ticket. Prior to a new law that was passed, it also allowed the police to stop the driver to issue the ticket. There were many times when a stop for a broken brake light turned into much more than a ticket though. Many times police would expand the scope of the stop and because they suspected that the person may have drugs in the car, they would search the vehicle and in some instances people were charged with drug offenses instead of a traffic ticket.

Police prohibited from stopping vehicles for minor offenses

Under the new law, police are no longer allowed to stop vehicles for some minor offenses. These offenses are:

  • Not having the license plate light illuminated
  • Having defective or unsafe equipment
  • Not having a brake light working
  • Exhaust problems that make the car loud
  • Having too dark of a tint on the windows
  • Having objects hanging in the vehicle
  • Expired vehicle registration, unless it has been expired for a minimum of four months

In addition to not being able to stop vehicles for those minor offenses, police are also no longer allowed to search the vehicle solely based on the fact that they smelled marijuana in the car. If a driver is stop for one of the above offenses or searched because of the odor of marijuana any evidence that the police find in the vehicle will be suppressed which means the evidence cannot be used to convict the person of the crime. This is true even if the driver consents to the search.

Prior to the new law police in Virginia were allowed to stop vehicles for any traffic violation even very minor ones. Sometimes the driver may not even be aware that a light on their license plate is out. These stops were usually done in order to give the police a reason to see if other crimes were committed. This is no longer allowed though and drivers have more protection. Experienced attorneys understand all the laws surrounding stops and seizures and may be able to help protect one’s rights.