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Reasonable Suspicion for Minnesota Traffic Stops

In order to lawfully stop a motor vehicle in Minnesota, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed. This rule of law is taken from the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Pike.

The police officer must be able to point to and articulate specific facts that support a reasonable suspicion that the driver or passenger is or was engaged in criminal activity.  

This standard is much less than probable cause or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but the officer still needs some reason why the driver or passenger is suspected to have committed a crime.  

A police officer cannot lawfully stop a motor vehicle simply because of a hunch or to satisfy their curiosity. However, even the most minor traffic violations support a reasonable suspicion of a crime and a lawful stop of a motor vehicle.

Because stopping a motor vehicle constitutes a “seizure,” the Fourth Amendment clearly applies to all motor vehicle investigatory stops. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.  If a police officer does not have reasonable suspicion that the occupants of a motor vehicle have committed a crime, the ensuing stop can be found to be unconstitutional.  

All evidence obtained following an unconstitutional stop is inadmissible in a court of law.  However, this protection only applies when and if a person or motor vehicle has been stopped (seized) by police.

How do you know if your motor vehicle has been stopped by the police in Minnesota?  There is a slight distinction between when the United States Supreme Court has said a motor vehicle is stopped (seized) and when Minnesota courts have said a motor vehicle is stopped. 

 Under federal law, a motor vehicle is stopped when, in response to the police use of either physical force or a show of authority, a reasonable person would believe that she is not free to leave.  

Under Minnesota law, a motor vehicle has been stopped when a police officer orders a vehicle to stop (by words or actions) or does anything that causes a reasonable person to believe he was not free to leave.  

There is a slight difference between the two rules of law, but the point is that a person driving a motor vehicle in Minnesota is protected from unlawful police stops under both the United States Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an unlawful stop by the police, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka for an immediate case review. If you are facing criminal charges because of an unlawful motor vehicle stop, the criminal defense attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka will fight to defend your constitutional rights and seek to have the evidence thrown out of court.

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John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense.  He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime. John offers what very few other Twin Cities criminal defense lawyers can offer. His combination of experience, success, connections, resources, accessibility, and complete handling of a client’s file sets him apart from his colleagues.

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