In order to make an arrest of a driver or a passenger in the State of Colorado, the police officer must have probable cause that one of those persons has engaged in some sort of criminal activity. Additionally, a police officer must have probable cause to search a vehicle, your person or your property. If a police officer either searches your car or property or arrests you without probable cause, they have violated your constitutional rights.
Understanding Probable Cause
Probable cause is needed to make an arrest, search a person or their property, or issue a search or arrest warrant. Probable cause means that there are circumstances, evidence or observations that give a reasonable and prudent person reason to believe that the suspect has either just committed a crime or is in the process of committing a crime.
Understanding Reasonable Suspicion
Traffic stops in Colorado do not require probable cause, but rather a reasonable suspicion. In order for a police officer to stop a vehicle, they must be able to demonstrate that the driver is engaged in some criminal activity. The threshold of reasonable suspicion is lower than probable cause. A minor traffic violation is grounds for reasonable suspicion and a police officer may stop a vehicle. During the traffic stop, the police officer may see evidence of something that would lead them to believe that there is other criminal activity taking place, such as alcohol or drug paraphernalia or use.
Probable Cause to Search
Even if a police officer stopped a vehicle under reasonable suspicion, they may not actually search a vehicle, person, or property until they have actual probable cause to do so and obtain a warrant. However, a driver may consent to the police officer searching their car without a warrant.
Challenging Probable Cause
A police officer may ask you to provide your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card, or order you to get out of the vehicle. However, if you truly believe that there is no reason why the police officer should be searching your vehicle or person, you have legal rights. The police officer is not legally allowed to search your car, person, or property without your consent or a search warrant. Additionally, a police officer does not have the legal right to ask you about your immigration status.
If you are pulled over by a police officer, you have the right to ask to leave the scene if you have provided the information they have requested, and the police officer is not going to arrest you. The police officer must allow you to leave if you are not being arrested. However, it is important to note that you should always be polite as many of these interactions are being recorded by the police through body or vehicle cameras.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing an arrest after a traffic stop in the State of Colorado, you may be able to challenge their probable cause to search your vehicle or arrest you. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Moorhead Law Group at 303-447-1400 or online today to discuss your legal options and how to build a strong defense.