Traffic stops can be an incredibly intimidating experience. Most people, when pulled over, don’t even think once about asking whether they are free to go, and law enforcement almost never advise those they pulled over that they have this right. Recently, an Arizona appellate court issued an opinion in a case that could have big ramifications for rights of individuals in traffic stops.
In Arizona v. Jacquez, Josue Manuel Jacquez was driving on the highway when a police officer pulled him over. The officer wrote him a ticket for driving with a suspended license, and after signing and giving it to Mr. Jacquez the officer then asked Mr. Jacquez if he had drugs in the car and whether he could search the car. Although Mr. Jacquez was free to leave once the officer gave him the ticket, Mr. Jacquez did what most of us would do: he allowed the officer to search his car. Unfortunately for Mr. Jacquez, the officer found almost seven pounds of meth in the car and Mr. Jacquez was charged with several drug-related crimes.
Mr. Jacquez filed a motion to suppress the drugs found in his car, arguing that the officer violated his rights by impermissibly extending the length of the traffic stop beyond the point it should have ended. Mr. Jacquez argued the officer did so by asking questions that were unrelated to the traffic stop and therefore his consent to search the car was not valid.
Ultimately, the court determined that Mr. Jacquez consented to the extended encounter with the police and that, therefore, the evidence seized from his car did not have to be suppressed. In doing so, the court noted that Mr. Jacquez did not try to leave and that the officer did not make any threats or use any force when asking the questions about the drugs. Importantly, the court noted that the defendant said during trial that he stayed to answer the questions out of respect to the officer.
This is a disappointing decision that does not take into account how intimidating traffic stops can be for most people. After this ruling, it is incredibly important to remember that once the officer has given you your ticket, if they then begin to ask you additional questions you have every right to respectfully say, “Officer, my understanding is that this traffic stop has come to an end and that it is my right to leave. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I need to get on my way.” Then, you have the right to leave. If the officer begins to threaten you, respectfully, but firmly, repeat yourself. Advise the officer that if he does not let you leave as is your legal right, you will call your attorney.
Arrested After a Traffic Stop?
We know traffic stops can be intimidating and that you can feel pressured to do or say things to law enforcement even if they are not threatening you. If you have been arrested because of a traffic stop, Blischak Law should be your first call. We have years of experience successfully defending clients in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale areas, and are always one phone call away. Contact us today.