Swerving While Driving as Basis for Officers to Conduct Traffic Stop in Arizona

For a police officer to conduct a traffic stop in Arizona, he or she must have reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity is afoot. Without this reasonable suspicion, the officer has no legal basis to pull over a vehicle. How do courts define “reasonable suspicion?” There are some basic standards in place from Arizona case law, but one activity that courts have concluded could give rise to this “reasonable suspicion” standard is swerving while driving.

In a recent case before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division Two, a defendant appealed his conviction for driving under the influence. After being charged, the defendant filed a motion to suppress incriminating evidence, which the trial court denied. The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court wrongfully denied this motion to suppress.

The facts of the case were simple: the defendant was driving, swerving from one lane to the next. An officer stopped him, smelled burnt marijuana on the defendant’s person, and quickly administered sobriety tests. The tests revealed that the defendant was driving under the influence.

Despite the defendant’s argument on appeal that the officer’s stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion, the higher court disagreed. As long as the deviation outside a traffic line is not “brief, momentary, and minor,” the officer is allowed to pull a driver over for a traffic stop. The defendant’s swerving in this case was none of these things. Therefore, the officer’s stop was warranted, and the denial of the motion to suppress was appropriate.

Other Possible Grounds for a Traffic Stop

An officer can also conduct a traffic stop if he notices a driver taking the following actions: running through a red light or stop sign, changing lanes recklessly or without a blinker, speeding, or showing disregard for other drivers. It is important to be careful on the road both for your safety and the safety of others, but it is also important not to give officers a reason to pull you over. Once an officer begins the traffic stop, he has many tools available to him that could end up resulting in criminal charges.

Are You Looking for a Phoenix Vehicular Crimes Attorney for Your Case?

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we understand that it is never convenient to face criminal charges, and we do all that is in our power to get your charges dropped as early as possible. Our team of attorneys is relentless, aggressive, and experienced, and we take a client-centered and holistic approach to every case. If a traffic stop has led to criminal charges for you or a loved one, don’t wait; give us a call as soon as possible so that we can begin talking through the best possible strategies for your case.

For a free and confidential consultation with a Phoenix vehicular crimes attorney, call us at (480) 413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to tell us about your case and have a member of our team reach back out to you as soon as possible.

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