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Vehicle Stops in Iowa

Lawful Vehicle Stops: An officer must have reasonable belief that a traffic law or other law has been violated before stopping a vehicle.  This reasonable belief can be based on a minor violation, such as an inoperative license plate light. The officer’s observations are key to expanding into an OWI investigation from the traffic stop. The officer will consider the driver’s driving, appearance, and driver’s admission of consuming drugs or alcohol. Some common characteristics that an officer will consider includes the smell of alcohol, blood shot and watery eyes, messy or soiled clothes, slurred speech, or balance problems.

Unlawful Vehicle Stops: As stated, the officer must have a reasonable and articulate basis to believe that a law has been violated for a traffic stop.  If there is no reasonable and articulate basis, then the traffic stop is illegal.  A suppression hearing may be demanded in which the officer must prove the reasonable and articulate basis, showing probable cause for the traffic stop.  Weaving outside a traffic lane is a valid reason for a stop is an officer observes pronounced weaving from a substantial distance.  Weaving inside your lane or encroaching on another lane is not a valid reason.  Anonymous calls may not be used to stop a car; the officer must have some evidence to support the anonymous call.

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