Getting Pulled Over for “Fitting the Description” and What You Should Do

 

Getting pulled over is always a nerve-wracking experience, but it’s especially troubling if you have no idea why you’re being targeted. You may need to hire a commercial vehicle attorney if you’re pulled over because you fit the description of a suspect. Here’s what you should know about getting pulled over for “fitting the description,” and what you should do if it happens to you.

What Fitting the Description Means

If you feel like you’re ever given a traffic ticket wrongfully, there are things you can do to fix traffic tickets and clear your record. But what if you’re pulled over wrongfully because you look like someone who has committed a crime? This is often referred to as “fitting the description,” and it happens more often than you may think.

In order for a police officer to pull you over for “fitting the description,” you must match the profile of the person who committed the crime with great accuracy. For example, if the police have a description of a male suspect who is tall, white, late-30’s and wearing a leather jacket, they are within their rights to pull you over if you match the description.

However, police can’t pull you over based on a description that’s too vague. For example, if they have a suspect description that only includes “black” and “male,” they can’t legally pull you over just because you’re a black male. They must have sufficient details to reasonably identify the criminal in question. Just as you can fight traffic ticket Los Angeles if you feel it’s been issued unjustly, you can fight being arrested for “fitting the description” if the description is too vague.

Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion

Probable cause means that a person who is reasonable would believe a crime had been committed, was currently being committed, or was about to be committed. If there is probable cause, it means there’s enough evidence for an arrest warrant or search.

Reasonable suspicion occurs when a reasonable police officer has reasonable suspicion that someone is engaging in criminal activity. Without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, officers can do and request very little of you during a traffic stop.

What Officers Can and Can’t Do

If an officer can support stopping you because you fit the description of a suspect, he or she may conduct a pat-down search on you to determine that you aren’t carrying a firearm. If you have any passengers, they may also be searched.

If both probable cause and exigent circumstances exist, the officer may search your vehicle. Exigent circumstances include anything that would cause a reasonable person to believe they must take action to prevent physical harm to themselves or other persons, the escape of the suspect, or the destruction of relevant evidence.

An officer can’t do any of these things if there is no reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If you ever feel like your rights were violated and you’re facing criminal charges, contact a commercial vehicle attorney or ticket attorney. Every driver in California has rights, and officers must respect those rights and follow the law whenever they pull over or detain drivers.

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