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Analyzing A Police Encounters With A Suspect

1226 words - 5 pages

A police officer is required to have probable cause to stop a vehicle, which can be, but not limited to a traffic violation, equipment violation, or simply suspicious activity. A frisk of the occupants of a vehicle is justified if the police officer has reasonable suspicion that the occupants are armed and dangerous. In this essay, I will identify the levels of police encounter involved in the case study. I will describe the legal requirements needed to justify each encounter. I will analyze the facts in the case study against each level of encounter to determine if Officer Smith was justified.

In the scenario presented in the case study, Officer Smith is on routine patrol at night when she notices the vehicle in front of her appears to have a broken tail light, but covered with colored tape. Officer Smith instructs the driver to pull the vehicle to the side of the road. In the 1996, Whren v. United States despite the prevailing circumstances and the personal opinion of the officer whether the occupant of a vehicle is involved in some other illegal activities, a traffic stop is legitimate as long as another logical officer would have stopped the vehicle for the same traffic violation (The Oyez Project at llT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2013). The law varies on the broken tail light from state to state. In general, as long as the tail light does not show a bright glaring light and the tail light is operational then it is not a traffic law violation (Leagle, 2013). With that being duly noted, Officer Smith does not have reasonable suspicion to make the initial stop of this vehicle (Carden, 2013).

In the case study, as Officer Smith walks to the driver side of the vehicle; she recalls that a car fitting the general description of the stopped vehicle was involved in a road side killing of a police officer. Officer Smith should have called dispatch to verify this information before approaching the stopped vehicle. Upon approaching the vehicle Officer Smith should have identified herself, made the driver aware why the vehicle was stopped, and requested the driver to show her driver’s license and registration. Officer Smith should have inspected the tail light at this point to ensure it was in direct violation of the traffic law for her state. Nevertheless, Officer Smith orders the driver to exit the vehicle for a brief pat down for weapons. The 1997 case of Maryland v. Wilson, it is legitimate for an officer to instruct the occupants to exit a legally stopped vehicle (Batterton, n.d.). The 1968 case Terry v. Ohio proved to be a valuable tool for police officers’ safety. This case permits the police officer to protect his or herself by conducting a stop and frisk as he or she investigates what appeared to be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, n.d.). Officer Smith is justified in conducting the frisk of the driver’s outer attire for weapon with the assumption that the broken...

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