So, what is a valid traffic stop in Georgia? Knowing the answer to this will help you avoid being pulled over for no real reason, which could save you a lot of time and heartache. In Georgia, a cop only needs a reasonable belief that you have violated or are violating a law in order to pull you over. Georgia law does not care if the cop is using the infraction they are seeing just to stop you for some other reason. This is called a pretextual stop, and is long as its backed up by a valid reason to pull you over, its perfectly OK.
What can you do to make sure you are not pulled over for something just so the cop can search you, question you, or otherwise harass you? Here are the most common mistakes I see people make that lead to them being pulled over even when they have committed no real traffic offense.
1) Equipment problems on your vehicle- Georgia laws require your vehicle's parts to be operational when on the roadway. Your headlights, turning signals, brake and tail lights must be working. Even the lights that illuminate your tag must be operational in order to not draw attention to your vehicle. Additionally, make sure your windows are all in good order- this means your tinted windows are not too dark and your windshield is not cracked. Equipment violations will get you pulled over.
2) Don't draw attention to yourself when driving- Throwing a cigarette out the window may seem harmless, but it can get you pulled over. Also, getting into fights with passengers, appearing intoxicated or otherwise distressed can also have you blue lighted. Lastly, make sure the music isnt loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. All of these things will get you stopped, which can lead to things going down hill. (I have represented clients stopped for all of the above reasons)
3) Keep your vehicle's paperwork up to date- With modern day technology, cops are now able to scan your plate and pull your vehicle's registration and other information simply by driving by. LPRs or license plate readers can snap photos of your plates from a moving cop car, all without you even realizing it. Of course, if your vehicle's information draws a red flag, you will get pulled over. Keeping your insurance coverage, license, and registration current are all mandatory. Finally, if you have just purchased or transferred a car, make sure you get to the tag office and update your paperwork ASAP. While Georgia law does give you a grace period on transfers, a "TAG APPLIED FOR" sticker on your car will almost always get you pulled over and questioned. If you must drive without a tag, or with a homemade temporary tag, make sure to have your Bill of Sale and other paperwork ready to go in case you are stopped.
If you have other questions, or have been pulled over and believe the stop was not supported by a valid reason, give us a call or contact us through our site to further go over your case. We will be happy to discuss your options with you and cover how the validity of your stop could affect your overall case.