What if the Police Pulled Me Over By Mistake?

The police officer must have a valid and proper reason to stop your vehicle. If the officer who pulled you over made a MISTAKE OF LAW (i.e., thought that an offense had been committed or that some equipment deficiency was “required” equipment), then the entire stop and all evidence recovered or collected by the police will be suppressed (excluded from evidence) at the time of the pre-trial motions hearing.

Specific examples of “mistake of law” cases will help illustrate this point. In the first case, during the very early morning, the police decided to run a license tag number through their system to check it. The officer entered the wrong number and the tag came up invalid. The officer then stopped the driver, who was later accused of DUI-DWI.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals determined that because there was a mistake of law, that the driver really did not have an invalid plate, and since the mistake was the officer’s, there was no valid justification for the stop.

In an Ohio case, the reason for the stop was a mistaken warrant out on the defendant who was subsequently charged with DUI-DWI. When the warrant was found to be mistaken, no other reason existed for the stop, and the court determined that all evidence gathered by the police because of the stop could not be introduced.

In a third case, an officer pulled over the defendant after he had made a U-turn over a double yellow line on federal property, when this was not a crime. The court ruled that all evidence obtained because of the stop must be suppressed.

As a last example, an officer stopped a young male driving an apparent rental or loaner car because the officer noted a “disabled placard” hanging from the rear-view mirror. Even after a response from his dispatcher that the vehicle had not been reported stolen, the officer considered it so abnormal for a young person to be displaying this placard, that he stopped the vehicle. The court found that this “hunch” was not an adequate reason for the stop.