Every driver knows the fear and dread that comes with seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror. When you get pulled over, even if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong, you’re in a situation of imbalanced power. The police have all the authority in that moment.
However, they can’t pull you over for no reason. Your constitutional rights protect you from unreasonable seizures, including vehicle stops.
Police must have a reasonable suspicion
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. A “seizure” includes a stop of your vehicle. The Illinois state constitution provides similar protections.
The constitutional standard for traffic stops is that police must have reasonable suspicion that you’re violating the law. They can also pull you over if necessary for emergency or safety reasons.
Common reasons why people get pulled over
Police often pull people over due to:
- Traffic violations such as speeding, tailgating, crossing the centerline, missing a taillight or other violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code
- Expired plates on the vehicle
- A warrant for your arrest or for someone in your vehicle, which might include a bench warrant for failure to appear at a prior court hearing of any kind
- The registered owner of the vehicle is suspended or revoked and the officer can identify that the driver matches the description of the suspended or revoked owner
- A reasonable suspicion that the vehicle is stolen or that it’s part of an ongoing investigation
- A reasonable suspicion that you’re committing a crime such as a DUI or drug offense
To reduce your risk of getting pulled over, your license should be in good standing, and you should always follow Illinois traffic laws to a tee. Avoid speeding and tailgating, and keep your vehicle in good working condition, with fully functioning lights and current license plates.