Being stopped by the police regarding a minor traffic infraction can create significant apprehension for Georgia motorists, especially when the officer uses it as an excuse to search a vehicle. Officers have historically abused this authority on a regular basis. This happens because legislators have been persuaded by certain groups to allow certain minor violations to be considered as a primary offense, allowing officers to often stop whomever they choose. But, this practice may be about to change.
Articulable reasonable suspicion requirements
All police officers must have a verifiable reasonable suspicion before requesting to search a vehicle, and many times this requirement gets overlooked in traffic stops. The problem is that making a claim in court does not require an officer to provide documentation other than their testimony, which serves as an easy excuse to search anyone’s vehicle as though they are a criminal suspect. This practice not only results in unwarranted arrests but puts officers in danger as well. The lack of articulable reasonable suspicion can even be central to a criminal defense strategy in many cases.
Policy changes across the nation
While Georgia court officials have yet to follow suit, there could be an impetus to do so in the near future. Prosecutors in several cities across the U.S. have sent policy directives to police precincts that drug charges filed as subsequent arrests to minor infraction stops would not be advanced. The policy decision actually serves as a change in the law for officers, and failure to follow policy can be used in criminal defense as an unjustified detainment by the officer.
This shift in policy is actually needed in the view of many criminal defense attorneys as well as many prosecutors. Officer safety is always a priority, and unnecessary stops offer too many opportunities for violence both by and against officers for very little public safety gain.