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Mere weaving is not enough for police to stop a car

Aug 19, 2013 Mere weaving is not enough for police to stop a car

Police are fond of stopping cars for weaving when they cannot find any other grounds to stop them.

Fortunately, in Virginia and Maryland, mere weaving by itself is not enough to allow police to stop a car. Instead, the police must look at the totality of the circumstances:

Virginia: "To determine whether an officer has articulated a reasonable basis to suspect criminal activity, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances, including the officer’s knowledge, training, and experience." Freeman v. Va., 20 Va. 658, 661, 460 S.E.2d 261, 262 (1995) (invalidating a car stop for driving very slowly).  "[T]he only justification offered for Barrett’s ‘seizure’ is [the police officer’s] testimony that he stopped Barrett merely ‘to see whether there was a problem’ because it ‘seemed odd’ that he would drive partially upon the shoulder of the road and partially on the adjoining yard and not enter the highway. Just as the actions in Zimmerman[, 234 Va. 609, 363 S.E.2d 708 (1988), were insufficient to justify a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, we conclude that Barrett’s ‘odd’ conduct, without more, did not give rise to ‘a reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts,’ that he needed police assistance. Thus, we need not decide whether the so-called ‘community caretaking functions’ doctrine will be applied in Virginia when the evidence is sufficient to show that the detained person required police assistance." Barrett, 250 Va. 243, 247-48, 462 S.E.2d 109, 112 (1995).

Maryland: "Whether probable cause or a reasonable articulable suspicion exists to justify a stop depends on the totality of the circumstances." Rowe v. Md. 363 Md. 424, 433, 769 A.2d 879, 884 (2001). "We conclude that the petitioner’s momentary crossing of the edge line of the roadway and later touching of that line did not amount to an unsafe lane change or unsafe entry onto the roadway, conduct prohibited by [the Maryland Transportation Code], and, thus, cannot support the traffic stop in this case." Rowe 363 Md. at 441, 769 A.2d at 889.

Approvingly citing Barrett, Maryland’s highest court declined to allow a car stop merely to assure that the driver is okay.  Rowe, 363 Md. at 445, 769 A.2d at 891. 

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