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Understanding Motions to Suppress in the Context of Traffic Stops

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer, your rightsIndividuals all throughout Wisconsin have, at one point in time, found themselves detained by a police officer for a traffic violation. Of course, this may be for good reason, or it may have been conducted illegally. To be sure, when a law enforcement officer pulls you over, they must have a probable cause that a crime has been committed. This means that if you were driving one mile over to speed limit, or had a broken tail light at the time you were pulled over, the officer was within their lawful powers to pull you over.

If the traffic stop was illegal, a motion to suppress would be appropriate. A motion to suppress is a tool used to challenge the admissibility of evidence used in the prosecution’s case against the defendant. When the court is deciding whether to grant or dismiss a motion to suppress, the court will look at the totality of circumstances, which includes the officer’s decision to stop and arrest you.

Reasonableness of Traffic Stop

A helpful overview of the reasonableness of a police’s traffic stop can be found in the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in State v. Hogan. In this case, a sheriff’s deputy observed an individual in the defendant’s automobile driving without a seat belt. While in the process of questioning the defendant, the deputy observed what he believed were indicators of drug use, and a fellow police officer confirmed the defendant’s criminal history involving drugs. The deputy asked the defendant to perform sobriety tests, which he passed. The deputy then told the defendant he was free to go. Here, the stop by the deputy was lawful and was not unreasonable.

Consenting to Searches of Automobiles

Commonly, whenever you are pulled over by the police, they may ask to search your vehicle. If you say yes, then you have consented to the search, whether or not the police had probable cause to pull you over or search your vehicle.

Here, it is important to realize that this consent may be given at any time during the traffic stop made by the police. Specifically, even if the police inform you that you are free to go at any point in the traffic stop, if you continue to answer their questions and subsequently agree to a search of your vehicle, you have provided consent. In this case, instead of choosing to leave when provided with the opportunity, you chose to remain and allow the search to proceed.

Finally, always remember that you are never required to provide consent to search your automobile. Of course, even in the absence of consent, law enforcement officers may still choose to search your vehicle; if this happens, however, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to have any subsequently discovered evidence thrown out in court.

Contact an Attorney

As you can see, if you consent to an illegal search, it can be used against you. If you have been pulled over or formally charged with a traffic violation, you should contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who will aggressively fight each stage of the prosecution’s case.

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