Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia DUI case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant argued that the officer who pulled him over did not have reasonable suspicion to do so, and the trial court should have suppressed evidence that was recovered as a result of the stop. However, the appellate court disagreed with the defendant’s argument, finding that the traffic stop was supported by probable cause, affirming the defendant’s conviction.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, police received a “be on the lookout” call reporting a man driving towards Bowling Green in a small green sedan to go get more beer. An officer went to one of the three businesses in Bowling Green that sells beer, and observed a small green sedan pull into the parking lot. There was one man inside, the defendant, drinking from a can. As the officer pulled closer, the defendant drove off.
The officer followed the defendant. A few moments later, the defendant approached a red light. When the light turned green, the defendant waited six or seven seconds before proceeding. The officer initiated a traffic stop and, upon approaching the vehicle, noticed that the defendant had glassy eyes, slurred speech and that there were numerous containers of alcohol in the car. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with DUI.
In a motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop. Because of that, the defendant claimed that any evidence collected during the stop – including the officer’s observations – should be suppressed. Specifically, the defendant asserted that his failure to proceed within six or seven seconds did not justify a traffic stop.
The court disagreed, explaining that a traffic stop is justified if it is supported by reasonable suspicion that the subject of the stop was breaking the law. The court went on to cite Virginia Code section 46.2-833, which explains a motorist’s obligations regarding green traffic signals. Specifically, the statute says that “green indicates the traffic shall move in the direction of the signal and remain in motion as long as the green signal is given,” and that a “driver of any motor vehicle may be detained or arrested for a violation of this section.”
The court held that the defendant’s failure to proceed through the green light in a timely fashion was a sufficient reason to conduct a traffic stop. In so holding, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he was merely exercising caution to ensure that no other vehicles were approaching. The court noted that, according to the officer, there were no other vehicles nearby, and that the path was clear for the defendant to proceed through the intersection immediately.
Have You Been Arrested after a Routine Virginia Traffic Stop?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious criminal offense after a routine Virginia traffic stop, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC. Our dedicated team of Virginia criminal defense attorneys aggressively defend the rights of our clients who are facing serious accusations, including Virginia DUIs, drug charges, and gun possession crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 703-542-4008.