Not Just a Ticket: When a Traffic Stop Leads to an ArrestDecember 5, 2016
When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, you may think that the worst that can happen is that the officer will issue a citation for a traffic offense. However, many traffic stops end in significantly more serious circumstances. Officers stop cars and end up placing someone under arrest, which often results in the issuance of criminal charges. If one minute you were driving a car and the next, you are in handcuffs, you may be accused with one of the following:
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
DUI1 is likely the most common reason for an arrest at a traffic stop. If an officer believes that there is probable cause to believe you are intoxicated, they can arrest you on the spot and, if you are alone, your vehicle will likely be impounded. Officers can obtain probable cause through field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, or simply based on their observations of your appearance, odor, or behavior. If the prosecutor can prove that you blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit of 0.08 percent, you can be convicted of DUI and can face jail time, fines, and long-term suspension of your license.
If an officer stops you, believes you have been drinking, and you are under the legal drinking age of 21 years old, you can be charged with DUI and with underage drinking. You can also be arrested for underage drinking if you are in a car and you possess alcohol in the vehicle. Underage drinking convictions can leave a mark on your permanent record, as well as result in fines, loss of your license, and even time in jail.
If you were involved in an accident that resulted in the death of another person, you can be arrested and charged with vehicular homicide (commonly called vehicular manslaughter) if authorities believe you caused the accident by reckless driving, illegal driving maneuvers, or DUI. This is a very serious charge and a conviction can mean years behind bars and extensive fines. You also may face a civil claim by the family of the deceased.
Drug Possession or Possession with the Intent to Deliver
In some situations, police may arrest you for drug possession or possession with the intent to deliver at a traffic stop. This can be done if any drugs or paraphernalia is in plain view or if the police search your vehicle and find any drugs. In many cases, police perform illegal searches in violation of your 4th Amendment2 rights, which can be used as a defense to keep critical evidence (the drugs found) out of your case. This often results in a dismissal of charges. Drug possession charges can be escalated to possession with intent to deliver if police found a significant amount of drugs, drugs individually packaged, or other signs you meant to deliver them to someone else.
Similar to drug possession, police can arrest you for suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm if they find a gun in your vehicle, you can be charged with a violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA). A conviction for VUFA can result in serious penalties including a possible mandatory jail sentence. There are many ways to defend against gun crimes, however, including illegal search or seeking eligibility for gun court.
If an officer stops you, looks up your information, and discovers that you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, they will arrest you right then and there. There are many reasons why you may have a warrant out, including:
- You are suspected of committing a crime
- You are suspected of a probation violation
- Failure to appear in court – including traffic court
- Failure to pay child support
In this situation, you will likely face charges for whatever offense from which the warrant stemmed.
Discuss Your Arrest and Charges with an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Whenever you are arrested – even if it was due to a traffic stop – you should immediately call an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Brian Zeiger will represent you and protect your rights whether you are charged with DUI or a violent crime. Please contact The Zeiger Firm to discuss how we can help you at (215) 546-0340 today.