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Lawful/Unlawful Vehicle Stops in Delaware

The Police Officers of Delaware receive the ability to arrest individuals for driving under the influence. Specifically, any individual violating a driving law may be stopped by an officer. The absence of a driving violation may constitute an unlawful stop by the officer. However, the State of Delaware allows officers to cite unsafe driving or driving all over the road as a lawful stop. Additionally, any vehicle an officer has probable cause that the driver is driving under the influence permits the officer to stop the vehicle. The absence of probable cause will eliminate a vehicle stop as lawful.

Delaware permits police officers to lawfully stop vehicles for traffic violation. Thus, almost all vehicle stops are lawful. However, evidence supporting that an officer arbitrarily stopped a vehicle without any justification will constitute an unlawful vehicle stop. Basically, the courts of Delaware allow vehicle stops at sobriety checkpoints, anonymous tips of erratic driving, tips of individuals drinking while driving, and investigatory stops. Also, the absence of a traffic violation will not dismiss a police officer stop of a vehicle but may be argued by the defense as an unjustified stop. However, Delaware Courts rarely dismiss vehicle stops or classify a stop as unlawful.

Typically, the Courts of Delaware examine the procedures and process of the police officer stopping a vehicle to classify the stop as lawful. The Delaware Office of Highway Safety’s procedures and guidelines limit an officer’s discretion to arbitrarily stop vehicle. Thus, the State of Delaware tries to limit unjustifiable vehicle stops. Compliance of highway safety procedure occurs when the officer can cite a traffic violation, reason for stopping the individual, and evidence that stop was necessary by the officer.

Delaware provides officers the ability to argue that they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime was about to occur. Once an officer can cite a reasonable suspicion the officer can use the suspicion as probable cause to begin an investigatory stop of a vehicle. Therefore, officers may stop any vehicle that violation a traffic law, identified as erratic driving, or creates a reasonable suspicion that a crime will occur. Typically, most stops are lawful and claiming that a stop was unlawful must show a baseless stop without any reason to believe that a crime will occur.


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