As noted in our earlier post, Minnesota police officers need reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before they can lawfully stop a motor vehicle within their jurisdiction. This is a very low standard.
Police officers can stop a motor vehicle for the simplest of offenses, including driving on the shoulder and crossing the center line. But what if an officer conducts a traffic stop outside jurisdiction? Can the officer lawfully do this? For example, say a St. Paul police officer pulls a vehicle over in Minneapolis. Is this a legal traffic stop outside the jurisdiction? The answer, as usual, depends on the circumstances.
As a general rule, a traffic stop outside jurisdiction is not lawful unless the officer is acting in the course and scope of employment while outside of his jurisdiction. Using our St. Paul police officer example, if the officer was traveling to Minneapolis to obtain housing records related to a St. Paul criminal investigation and the officer observed a traffic violation while in Minneapolis, he could lawfully stop the vehicle because he was acting in the course and scope of employment while traveling in Minneapolis.
A police officer can also lawfully conduct a traffic stop outside jurisdiction if the criminal offense or traffic violation was committed within the officer’s jurisdiction and the vehicle escaped from or fled the officer into another jurisdiction.
The officer would have the legal authority to pursue the suspect vehicle into the neighboring jurisdiction and initiate a traffic stop anywhere in the state of Minnesota. In pursuing a suspect vehicle for a suspected offense that originated in the officer’s jurisdiction, the officer is considered to be serving in the regular line of duty as if he was within his jurisdiction.
If your or someone you know was recently stopped by a police officer and you are questioning the legality of the traffic stop or arrest, contact our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers right away. Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers will provide a free consultation and prepare an aggressive defense.