The Fourth Amendment and Traffic Stops

The fourth amendment is one of the seminal rights guaranteed in the constitution. It forces the police to get a search warrant for a house or piece of property. It guarantees a right to privacy when seeking medical care. It establishes limits on when and where a police officer can interrogate you. But few people understand that the fourth amendment can be the crux of a case during a traffic stop.


The Supreme Court has ruled that traffic is a special instance where the police have the right to stop vehicles under a reasonable suspicion that they’ve broken the law. However, the fourth amendment is still in consideration because certain contributing factors can influence whether or not the stop was considered lawful. For instance, a police officer may say that a car was swerving in between lanes and that is why he or she pulled the car over. However, if the in car video shows that the swerving was only slight and continued in the horizon of the traffic lane, without crossing the lines, a court can rule that the traffic behavior wasn’t enough to justify the traffic stop, thus making all other evidence in a case irrelevant.

We do not recommend arguing with the police over the validity of any traffic stop as this will probably aggravate the officer. However, the complexity of fourth amendment issues in traffic stops make it so even in cases where it appears clear that the suspect is guilty, the means by which the officer pulled over the suspect in question are suspect and thus vulnerable to being thrown out in court. That’s why it’s so important to have a qualified attorney evaluate your case before making decisions, they might see a legal issue that you didn’t even know existed.

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